Last weekend was the much anticipated Bendigo Writers Festival. The festival is in it’s seventh year, and gets bigger and better each year. I spent a fabulous weekend of conversation and learning. The sessions I attended are outlined below.
A FAIR AND TRUTHFUL RELATIONSHIP
In the wake of the Uluru Statement, four historians came together for a timely discussion about truth and history. The discussion was around how we might best come to terms with the past history of Australia.
MY FAIR LADY
The #MeToo movement of recent times has made a change to gender relations. Or has it? Beatrice Alba led the discussion about what has changed and what still needs to change
Bendigo has a strong reputation as a creative place which is open to new ideas, as the City of Greater Bendigo moves towards a new Arts and Creative Industries Strategy. David Astle headed a panel made up of the Mayor of Bendigo,Margaret O’Rourke, Renew Newcastle founder, Marcus Westbury, and associate professor of Visual Arts at LaTrobe University, Bendigo, Dr. Jacqueline Milner. The panel discussion focused on turning ideas into practice, about embedding positive and inspiring values in the social fabric, and about how the cityscape itself can embody those values.
Disturbing but familiar is a way to describe ABC journalist, Michael Brissenden’s first novel, The List, which is a thriller. Christian White cut his teeth on true crime, but his goal is edgy, disconcerting novels. David Astle hosted a discussion with Brissenden and White about writing that sets out to put readers on edge. Christian White’s new first novel, The Nowhere Child, is also a thriller, but very different to Brissenden’s book.
Hyeonseo Lee’s dangerous journey out of North Korea captured the attention of millions. Now, living in South Korea, she works to raise awareness of the plight of North Korean refugees. She spoke to Nick Bisley about human rights and refugees, and about what recent political developments might mean for her people. Find out about her amazing story in the video below.
Politics has changed very quickly since Gareth Evans was an influential foreign minister in the Hawke-Keating government. But he remains hopeful and even optimistic about foreign affairs and the future. He spoke to Claire Flanagan-Smith about activism, reform and idealism, and about whether he was ever in danger of losing his sense of humour when he was a member of parliament.
Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus are behind the Books on the Rail reading initiative in Melbourne. They have co-written a very funny, romantic contemporary novel that asks the question, can you love someone who doesn’t share your reading tastes. These two young girls were delightful and a joy to listen to.
POWER OF WORDS
Paul Barclay talks to Lemn Sissay about his battle to confront the dehumanising cruelty that destroyed his childhood, and about what came next – finding the redemptive power of words
This session was the highlight of the festival for me. You will understand why if you watch the following YouTube clip, where Lemn Sissay tells his story.
THE MESSAGE OF FOOD
Breaking bread is a term we use to suggest trust, firendship and the importance of sharing. Bryley Savage hosted this session with Chloe Shorten, Spiri Tsinitziris and Pam Ahern, discussing what sharing food means, favourite dishes and the messages that are served up with them
MYTH AND TRUTH
Journalist Ben Doherty’s first novel Nagaland is about the history, the mythology and the people of this remote north Indian state. Ben spoke with Emma Robertson about where his story began and how it evolved.
These are just a few of the sessions that were part of the festival. The Bendigo Writers Festival has a huge program of events that take place simultaneously, so it’s not possible to see everything. As much as I would have loved to see more, this was as much as I could fit in to one weekend. I’ve ordered books from the sessions that I attended, so my ‘to-read’ pile is growing faster than I can read them. For me the weekend was an absolute joy, reminding me of how much books and reading mean to me and to my life. To spend an entire weekend talking about and listening to talk about books was such a luxury.