Ailsa Piper is many things a writer, director, teacher, blogger, actor but above all a walker. And she’s combining all these talents in an engrossing theatrical performance to open the 2016 Ex Libris Port Fairy Festival of Words!

Ailsa will bring to life the story told in her first book, Sinning Across Spain (MUP 2012). It recounts her 1300 km solo walk along ancient pilgrimage routes from Granada to Santiago de Compostela. Powered by her love of poetry, plodding and snails, Ailsa shoulders the sins of her friends in a contemporary version of the journeys of medieval pilgrims.

Ailsa’s solo performance for the festival’s opening night on 9 September relives her exhausting and exhilarating walk. It’s a unique piece of theatre where Ailsa celebrates the songs of the road and the call of the heart through the power of story, rhythm and rhyme. It is funny, tender and uplifting and 1300 kilometres never passed so painlessly.

Ailsa is no longer a practising Catholic, but the deep spirituality of Sinning Across Spain captivated Sydney priest, Monsignor Tony Doherty. He began to use it in his sermons, and the correspondence between the priest and the walker forms the foundation of Ailsa’s new book, due out next year. Publishers Allen & Unwin have already compared it to 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

Ailsa will also be appearing at the festival in discussion with first time novelist, John Watt, a retired academic and former Catholic.
Festival coordinator, Kirsty Hawkes, said: “John’s book tackles the thorny and topical issues of sexuality and paedophilia in the Catholic Church. We were looking for someone to interview him. When I told Ailsa about his book, she offered to chat to him. I think they’ll
have a really interesting discussion.”

Born in WA, Ailsa appeared on stage and screen from the early 1980s, and from 1996 until 1999, she played Ruth Wilkinson in Neighbours. Ailsa has written for ABC children's radio, for theatre, for newspapers and online journals. In 2000 she was cowinner
of the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award for Small Mercies. Ailsa has directed for Red Stitch, the Melbourne Theatre Company, the VCA and WAAPA, and has been nominated for Greenroom Awards for direction and acting. She regularly contributes to Slow Living magazine, Eureka Street, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian.

Watch for more exciting festival news as we gear up for a really big weekend in September.  For more information about Ailsa Piper and the rest of this year’s exciting program, contact Kirsty Hawkes, ph 0437 762 508 or email .