PAUL KANE … 25 years as festival artistic director come to an end this weekend.

AN INTERNATIONAL audience will be online when Mildura Writers’ Festival marks its silver jubilee over three days from tonight.

More than 400 literary enthusiasts have signed up to watch livestreams of eight sessions presented by quality acclaimed writers, critics and scholars.

Artistic director Paul Kane has assembled another world-class program for his 25th and final Mildura festival.

Paul, who shares his time between New York and Australia, and has published five collections of poems and is poetry editor of Antipodes, will step down from the role after the weekend.

Festival organiser Donata Carazza said original plans for the 25th festival were to have been a special celebration with Paul to acknowledge his wonderful artistic guidance since the first event in 1995.

COVID-19 restrictions sidelined those plans and a special festival studio has been set up in the home of a committee member to host live-streams of the 2020 presentations.

“We looked at other arts organisations and the arts generally and saw that (performances by) the full gamut of genres had been decimated by coronavirus,” Donata said.

“So many performances have gone virtual and while it is not ideal, we can make it work. There will still be a sense of connection with immediacy and intimacy.’’

Donata said moving to the virtual platform for the 25th festival would extend the engagement.

“We normally have about 150 people attending. Already more than 400 people from across the country and overseas have registered,’’ she said.

During the weekend two festival prizes will be awarded – The $5000 Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for Excellence in Literature ​to an Australian writer and the Tina Kane Emergent Writer Award.

One of the highlight sessions will be Paul Kane in conversation with Texas-based Naomi Shihab Nye, the Young People’s Poet Laureate of the United States (Poetry Foundation) and for the past year poetry editor of the New York Times ‘Sunday’ magazine.

Naomi was selected for Lifetime Achievement Awards ​by the National Book Critics Circle and the Texas Institute of Letters in both 2019 and 2020.

Other featured writers over the weekend include:

• Paul Carter who writes, draws and co-designs places. In books like The Road to Botany Bay, The Lie of the Land and Meeting Place he has proposed new forms of cross-cultural communication.

• Ali Cobby Eckermann who was first Aboriginal Australian writer to attend the International Writing Program at University of Iowa. In 2017 Ali received a Windham Campbell Award for Poetry from Yale University USA and was awarded a Literature Fellowship by the Australia Council for the Arts in 2018. Ali was granted a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship in Italy in 2019.

• Charlotte Guest, a PhD candidate in creative writing at Deakin University, Geelong whose debut poetry collection was called Soap.

• Barry Hill who has won Premier’s Awards for poetry, non-fiction and the essay. 

• Maria Tumarkin who writes books, essays, reviews, and pieces for performance and radio; she collaborates with sound and visual artists and has had her work carved into dockside tiles.

The festival opens tonight with Fiona Gruber interviews Christos Tsiolkas, the author of six novels including the international bestseller  ‘The Slap’.

To register attendance during the festival live streams, email donata@mildurawritersfestival.com.au