Monday, 9 April 2018

Sydney Writers' Festival - Geoffrey Robertson

The 2018 Sydney Writers' Festival (SWF) Program has been announced, plans have been made and tickets have been purchased. While the Festival itself does not take place until May, I was fortunate to attend a SWF event on 26 March - An Evening with Geoffrey Robertson - with my festival friend.

Geoffrey Robertson QC is now 71 years old and in his 'anecdotage'. He has just published an autobiography, Rather His Own Man (2018), in which he shares memories from his childhood in Sydney, his move to the UK, becoming a barrister and celebrated human rights lawyer. Founder of Doughty Street Chambers, Robertson was called to the bar in 1977 and took silk in 1988. He initially became a high profile criminal defence lawyer in London, before moving into libel and media cases, and later numerous international human rights cases.
Robertson is such a great storyteller and for 90 minutes he kept the audience enraptured as he told tales of growing up, attending school in Epping, life as a student at University of Sydney and then his departure to England. Erudite and witty, Robertson then went on to share many fascinating legal cases he championed, and his perspective on world events. He spoke lovingly of his ex-wife, Australian author Kathy Lette, and their adventures together including tales of their visits to 'Buck House'. He was also able to shut down an annoying heckler who attempted to disrupt the event by shouting out conspiracy theories.

Perhaps the most moving segment was when Robertson read from his new memoir about the death of his mother. He spoke of the tyranny of distance, getting a call from afar to hear your parent has been hospitalised, quickly booking a flight home, communications silence while travelling around the world, then the bedside vigil while awaiting death. He was unprepared for being orphaned at age 70 and wrote lovingly of his parents.

All in all, it was great night out at the Sydney Writers' Festival, leaving me excited for the main event in May.