The British are being inundated with arty Australians.
In September 2013 the Royal Academy hosted the most extensive exhibition of Australian art works ever shown in the United Kingdom.
This year it’s the inaugural Australian and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts in late May.
The full program is being launched on Thursday in London at an event starring New Zealand Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton.
But a host of top names have already been announced for the May 29 to June 1 festival.
Tim Winton will open proceedings while other confirmed authors include Clive James, CK Stead, Fay Weldon, Geoffrey Robertson, Helen Garner, Evie Wyld, Anna Funder, John Pilger and Witi Ihimaera.
Overall there’ll be more than 60 events focusing on literature, film and music from Down Under. Sixty per cent of the program will be book-related.
The four-day festival is the brainchild of director Jon Slack who grew up Australia and lived in New Zealand before moving to the UK a decade ago.
“I was feeling very proud about what was going on in Australia and New Zealand and wanted to find a way of presenting that and capturing what is a very exciting time on a range of cultural fronts,” he told AAP.
“You can barely go a week over here without opening the paper and seeing one Australian or another that is doing something that’s getting recognition.
“It’s a way of drawing together things going on in isolation around London, the UK and Europe.”
The festival is targeted at the large expat population in Britain but also British people who might be interested in what’s come out of Australia and New Zealand.
“We are really reflecting and celebrating the very unique historic relationship which is very alive today,” Slack said.
The cultural event has Australian Council for the Arts funding for three years along with corporate and individual support.
The plan is that after three years the festival will be more of a commercial proposition.
Slack says although Australia and New Zealand are different culturally they have a shared history and geography.
A third of the participants won’t be from Down Under but made the cut because the theme is “stories and ideas from and about Australia and New Zealand”.
All the events will be at King’s College London opposite the Australian high commission on the Strand.
One of the venues is a working 19th century chapel which will host music, dance and poetry readings.
Clive James, who is not accepting many public engagements any more due to failing health, will do a one-man show on the Saturday afternoon.
“It’s going to be quite wide-ranging with him reflecting on his current passions and his recent Dante translation, and his life in writing and as a broadcaster, and the relationship between Australia, New Zealand and Britain,” Sacks said.
Given the festival will be on as the world prepares to remember 100 years since the start of WWI a “War and Words” section will focus on writers dealing with conflicts.
It will include “the early British arrival in Australia and New Zealand as well”, the director said.
Slack is also the director of Amphora Arts which produces the UK-based South Asian Literature Festival, which he says was a model for the new Australasian festival.
“This is just the beginning of something which can become quite significant over a longer period.”