Festival Muse: a writer's festival with a difference at Muse Canberra
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Festival Muse: a writer's festival with a difference at Muse Canberra

What turns you on? That's one question to ponder during this weekend's Festival Muse, a writer's festival with a difference, supported by the Kingston bookshop Muse.

Muse opened in 2015 and even then owners Dan Sanderson and Paul Eldon wanted the bookshop, cum cafe, cum wine bar to be a place where Canberrans came together to mingle, drink wine, engage in conversation and learn from each other.

Paul Eldon, left,  and Dan Sanderson, ready for the upcoming Festival Muse.

Paul Eldon, left, and Dan Sanderson, ready for the upcoming Festival Muse.

Photo: karleen minney

Three years down the track their philosophy is still the same.

"When we first opened we knew we wanted to have a festival at some point," says Sanderson.

Ken Helm, who will co-host a dinner as part of Festival Muse.

Ken Helm, who will co-host a dinner as part of Festival Muse.

Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
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"We love the idea, the feeling there is around a festival, with multiple things over a period of time.

"We like to create a little buzz."

This year the theme is "engagement".

"We're celebrating political engagement first and foremost," says Eldon, "but also personal engagement, engagement in your career, your art, your writing.

Clementine Ford.

Clementine Ford.

Photo: Melanie Faith Dove

"All of the events are themed around that the idea of being passionately involved in something.

"We think that's a very Canberran thing - the people who live here, they have a real passion for the work they do.

"I think people forget how many fascinating people there are in this quite small town."

Feminist writer Clementine Ford is a headline act. On Monday, March 12, she will speak at The Street Theatre about the #metoo movement.

"We're privileged to have Clementine as part of this year's festival," says Sanderson.

She will speak on the way women are silenced and how when they speak out, they are questioned, cross-examined, and dismissed. There will be an audience Q&A session to finish.

Another highlight is a wine dinner featuring local legend Ken Helm and his daughter Stephanie.

"This is their first joint Canberra event, and a very rare event. I don't think Ken has done a wine dinner for a very long time," says Eldon.

"He came in to drop off some samples of his wines the other day and said, 'I don't do these but I've heard good things about you two."

The Helms will host a six-course dinner with wine matches for $120.

Opening the festival on Friday, March 9, is "Turn Me On", a panel event with Zoya Patel (Feminartsy), Michael Brissenden (ABC), Roland Peelman (Canberra International Music Festival) and Jacob White (Australian Marriage Equality ACT Field Director) where they'll discuss their "lightbulb moment" and what it is that makes them passionate about their chosen field.

On Saturday, March 10, there'll be a long lunch with author Jack Heath who'll talk about his latest book, and first foray into adult fiction, Hangman.

On Sunday, March 11, there'll be a look back at The (Feminist) Week that Was with Rosanna Stevens, Jude Burger, Laura Campbell and Jennifer Wong.

For a full list of events go to musecanberra.com.au

Karen Hardy

Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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