Spoilt for Choice: Siobhan Hodge Previews the 2016 Perth International Arts Festival

Rochford Street Review Previews the Perth International Arts Festival 2016

publicpreviewPerth’s International Arts Festival (PIAF) is now only two weeks away, so it’s the perfect time to start planning what to see. Once again, Rochford Street Review has been spoilt for choice in this regard, so will be mentioning just a few of what we think are some of the “must see” events this year.

From 11th February to the 6th March there will be screenings, shows, panels, talks, performances, and interactive workshops to entertain and educate. There’s a massive variety on offer this year. Not only does the festival have a great range of entertainments on offer, it is also extremely accessible. This year there are 52 different venues in use, dotted around Perth’s city centre, Fremantle, university campuses, and stretching all the way to Denmark and Albany for the Great Southern Festival. The Chevron Festival Gardens are also open for the first time down on Elizabeth Quay, at the foreshore in Perth.

PWF 2016 - Hero Image 4MBFor poetry enthusiasts, a must-see event is definitely the Australian Poets Festival: 9×5 The Big Read WA. Poets Fay Zwicky, Lucy Dougan, Steven Finch, Miriam Wei Wei Lo, Amy Hilhorst, Cassandra Atherton, Kevin Brophy, Charmaine Papertalk-Green and David Musgrave will read for five minutes each, choosing a favourite work and then following it up with a poem or two of their own. This event sounds ideal for seasoned poetry enthusiasts and those looking for somewhere to start alike.

Rochford Street Review is keen to see how PIAF supports local artists and writers, and the 2016 line-up is certainly demonstrating a diverse range of options. For budding writers and artists looking for information and guidance on how to get their work out there, a top pick would be the Publishing Seminar. Authors and publishers alike will give helpful advice on how to make the most of your creative work, in a longer session to be held at Woolnough Lecture Theatre at UWA. There are also some very specialised workshops scheduled. Some of the most promising include Editing with Sara Foster, Getting your Cookbook Published, Writing a Crime Series, Writing for Children, Advanced Short Story Writing, and a Picture Book Workshop. Another stand-out workshop on offer is the Dorothy Hewett Award Workshop, which will go through how literary awards work.

the tiger lillies perform hamletFor theatre enthusiasts, twelve performances will be run throughout the festival, originating from all over the world and around Australia. It’s hard to choose a favourite among the line-up. However, Rochford Street Review will be aiming to attend The Tiger Lillies Perform Hamlet, which has been described as an “opera grotesque” version of Hamlet. Another powerful piece to see this year is No Guts, No Heart, No Glory, directed by Evie Manning and written by Aisha Zia. The play is about young Muslim women and boxing, dealing with issues of representation via an energy-infused performance. Another important presentation is a reflective component called the Sunday Series, which will give space for reflection on this year’s theatre performances, offering viewers a chance to hear from the performers themselves on the issues and opportunities in their work.

Yet again, PIAF has an impressive series of international guests set to arrive. For those lucky enough to have tickets, there are sold-out talks to be held by Richard Dawkins and Roman Krznaric. However, there are still tickets available for the talks by acclaimed fantasy author Jasper Fforde, and the Star of Deltora session, run by author Emily Rodda, and Arcadia with author Iain Pears, are both free events.

Rochford Street Review will also be attending several of the panel discussions scheduled for the coming week. In particular, one of these will be the Artist as Activist talk, to be held at the Octagon Theatre at UWA. Michael Cathcart will talk to Ruth Little, Anthony Marra and Roman Krznaric about the artist’s role in championing big issues and provoking empathic reactions, and how art and literature can teach us how to contribute to society and make our world a better place. Another must-see panel on a similar and sensitive note, will be This Fragile Life, a talk run by Susan Midalia and featuring poet Dennis Haskell, and authors Mireille Juchau and Myfanwy Jones, during which writers will be discussing the transformative powers of grief.

The Lotterywest Film Festival once again has a diverse range of national and international films on display. Twelve films are currently available. Rochford Street Review is especially looking forward to attending the Australian-Nepalese film Sherpa: Trouble on Everest, the Icelandic deadpan comedy Rams, and Japanese family drama Our Little Sister. As usual, these films will be screened at UWA’s Somerville and ECU Joondalup’s Pines venues, offering great atmosphere (weather permitting) as well as an engaging range of films.

the secret gardenFor people on a budget, there looks to be plenty to enjoy at PIAF this year. Some of the most intriguing offerings from the festival are free. Rochford Street Review will be paying a visit to the Human Library, to be run in the Sunken Gardens at the University of Western Australia. This special performance is described as “like any other library, except that the books are people with stories to share”. Though free to attend it is important to book, since this event sounds like it will be very popular. For people staying close to Perth’s city centre, a fantastical performance will be taking place for free at PICA in the form of a stop motion animation The Secret Garden, directed by Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg. While you’re in the area, the Art Gallery of Western Australia will also be hosting Raewyn Hill’s Reason for Being, a contemporary collaborative dance project that will engage a range of dancers under Hill’s artistic direction. It’s easy to see a range of creative and critical events all in the same area.

These are only some of the highlights; there is a wealth of other film, art, and music performances throughout the festival. It is well worth checking out PIAF’s website and making use of the handy “My Festival” function to plan your events. For complete details on the festival go to the official website at  https://perthfestival.com.au/

 – Siobhan Hodge


Siobhan Hodge has a doctorate from the University of Western Australia in English. Her thesis focused on Sappho’s legacy in English translations. She is an Associate Editor at Rochford Street Review, Reviews Editor for Writ Review, and contributing reviewer for Cordite. Born in the UK, she divides her time between Australia and Hong Kong. Her chapbook of reflections on Sappho, Picking Up the Pieces, was published in 2012 as part of the Wide Range Chapbooks series. She has also had poetry and criticism published in several places, including Limina, Colloquy, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Page Seventeen, Yellow Field, Peril, Verge, and Kitaab.

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