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Five red hot takeaway points from this year’s Newcastle Writer’s Fest

Laura Kebby -

Entertainment

For those who aren’t in the know, the weekend just gone Newcastle played host to a whole bunch of festivals and activities. Sure the beer fest was on, and the Olive Tree Markets, and not to mention the spectacular that is the Spiegeltent  but… did you also know the Newcastle Writer’s Fest was on? In case you missed it, here are our top 5 takeaway points to remind you to jump on the band wagon for next year.

  1. Studying Creative Writing is not in fact the equivalent of completing a degree in underwater basket weaving.

It’s all about the craft, and the love of both the written and the spoken word, which is what should be and is driving those who wish to write. Getting bogged down in the logistics of it all and hearing the constant “but I won’t get a job at the end of it” neg self talk bouncing around in your mind day in day out, isn’t helping anyone. Because honestly, in this day and age, you could do a medical degree, or a law degree (or an underwater basket weaving degree for that matter) and still not be guaranteed a job. Do what you love always and forever.

2. The #metoo movement is established, growing and ever prevalent in today’s society, but what next.

This year’s writer’s fest included a panel featuring, Amal Awad, Cassie Lane and Tracey Spicer discussed the ongoing prevalence and impact of the #metoo movement. It’s not just about Weinstein or any celebrity centred saga, it’s about all of us, coming together to end sexual harassment once and for all. The panel made some excellent points, which were backed up by journalistic integrity, tenacity and first hand experiences, but it was an audience member who really hit the point home for the masses. She commended the panelists on all the great work they are continually doing to back the #metoo movement and get many voices heard. She said “you seem like the kind of women who see things, but what about what you’re not seeing?” Basically calling them out on their positions of privilege but driving home the message that often it’s the ones too traumatised to speak up who need to be heard the most.

3. Scratches head. Where are all the young writers?

The thing that really stood out this year, for perhaps a much more negative reason than anything else, was the age demographic of the panellists and authors who attended the festival. Our town, and the wider Australian community for that matter, is brimming with excellent young Australian writers just ready and waiting to tell their story and share their passion for words. Young audience members are much more likely to be encouraged to work creatively, if they feel that the person who is meant to be inspiring and guiding them, is relatable and within metaphorical reach. Young voices are important, and the festival needed more this year. We attended nine panels, the median age of both speakers and audience members being roughly 45+. Nothin wrong with the oldies darl, but how about a bit of diversity?

4. Our city can put on a damn well organised event.

Everyone thought parking would be a nightmare. There was so much going on this weekend, it was thought that there was no way anyone would be able to get from A to B let alone C to D to E to anywhere else in this construction zone town. Now I don’t know whether it had anything to do with the hundreds of (ridiculously) hard working volunteers, or the sunshine, or the books, but the festival itself (from the outside looking in) seemed to go off without a hitch. Good jawb.

5.  Joanne McCarthy is phenomenal

So duh, we all knew this. We just thought it was only fair to remind you of this particular fact again (and again and again) especially after the weekend. Joanne was featured in the seen titled “Beyond the Suffering” which delved into the role of journalism in the Royal Commission into child sex abuse particularly in Newcastle. Joanne was articulate, intelligent, and passionate during the panel discussion which reflects her journalistic tenacity. You could almost feel the audience pulsating with pride at one of own having kickstarted the entire long awaited investigation to expose that which was seething below the surface of many local institutions for decades. So, just as a reminder, Newcastle should be exceptionally proud.

If it's on in Newcastle, it's on Newcastle Live

Comments 1

  1. Thanks so much for the overview Laura. Glad you saw so many different events. Just a quick point about the lack of young writers. I’m sure you’re aware that Newcastle hosts the National Young Writers Festival each year during TiNA. We have always been conscious of not crossing over. The NYWF has an amazing line-up of young writers and targets a younger audience. As the NWF director, I want to make sure there’s space for both festivals in Newcastle so this is why I don’t specifically target young writers. As you pointed out, the age group of our audience tends to be 45-plus. We don’t see this as a negative. There are so many fantastic events in Newcastle that cater for younger people, why should those over 25 miss out? I don’t build a program based on the ages of writers, I read and listen and respond to our audience. Did you catch Holly Ringland at the festival? Her debut novel is shaping up to become an international bestseller and what struck me when I read Lost Flowers for Alice Hart a few months ago was the quality of the writing. Is she 28 or 38? I don’t know. It never occurred to me to find out. We have an open online submission process that launches on 1 May. Anyone from throughout Australia can apply to be part of the festival, whether you’re an emerging, aspiring or established writer. Again, there is no age restriction or requirement so young writers are able to submit. We are one of the few Australian festivals that has an open submission process and hopefully more young writers will seize the opportunity to put their hand up. Rosemarie Milsom NWF Director

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