Does The Canberra Writers’ Festival Have Enough Women? And What’s Barnaby Joyce Doing There?

People are PISSED that Barnaby Joyce is headlining.

Canberra Writers' Festival

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After Friday’s announcement that Matthew Reilly and Barnaby Joyce were headlining the Canberra Writers’ Festival, some started to question whether the festival had made the right choice: were there enough women at the festival? And why, of all authors, was disgraced former deputy PM Barnaby Joyce chosen?

These were the questions that organisers grappled with as criticism started to come in online.

In the corner of Twitter where writers chit chat, things got particularly heated. In a now-deleted conversation, Australian authors Steve Lewis and Russell Kirkpatrick clashed heavily over the representation of women in the Canberra Writers’ Festival: in it, Lewis calls Kirkpatrick “pathetic” and a “dickhead”.

While Lewis does not appear as a credited manager of the festival on their website, he engages in the conversation as though he was an organiser.  Later in the conversation, it is not Lewis’ Twitter account that responds to Kirkpatrick’s tweets, but the official Canberra Writers’ Festival account.

Check out screenshots of the conversation below:

Canberra Writers Festival

Junkee has reached out to the festival for comment, and an understanding of what role Lewis has in the organisation of the event.

Others voiced their concern with the headlining writers for the festival:

But the festival was quick to defend its line up.

In a separate tweet, Lewis said that the festival would host “90 female writers and authors”.

Writers’ festivals around Australia have consistently courted controversy.

In May, Junot Diaz withdrew from the Sydney Writers’ Festival after allegations of sexual harassment came to light.

In 2015, Mark Latham told his audience at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival to “fuck off” if they didn’t like what he was saying.

The Canberra Writers’ Festival will take place from 23 to 26 August, and is themed “power, politics and passion”.