The first festival celebrating Australasian writers opens next week in London. The line-up even includes a Brit or two, writes Stephen Jewell
Stephanie Johnson. Photo / Richard Robinson
Stephanie Johnson. Photo / Richard Robinson

Stroll past King's College on The Strand and you can't help but notice the striking window display, made up of pictures of famous alumni, including Florence Nightingale, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bloc Party's Kele Okereke.

But next week the London university will play host to some illustrious figures from much further afield when the inaugural Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts is held within its grounds. Boasting an impressive guest list of more than 130 authors, musicians, filmmakers and other performers, the three-day event hopes to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between the two countries' artistic communities.

"It's almost as if there's an invisible wall between Australia and New Zealand from a cultural point of view in terms of getting writers from New Zealand over to Australia and vice versa," says festival director Jon Slack. "Eleanor Catton has this great anecdote that to get published in Australia, she had to first get published in Britain. The original idea was to raise the profile of Australian and New Zealand culture over here and to explore the relationship between New Zealand, Australia and Britain. But something that has happened on the side of that is highlighting this need to increase the collaboration between Australia and New Zealand.