For the literary inclined, writers festivals, wherever in the country they may be, can be the highlight of our year. It’s a time for like-minded word nerds (speaking as one myself) to get together and surround ourselves with books and words and listen to some
incredible authors talk about the infinite worlds that exist within their minds in an attempt to find out how they end up on the page. By chance a planned trip to Bellingen coincided with this year’s Bellingen writers festival, and after an incredible weekend, it caused me to reflect on my experience at the Newcastle Writers fest (that you can read about here) and here are five things that the book nerds of Newcastle can learn from the folks up north.
Bellingen is a small town, very small but hot damn can they put on a good show. The Memorial Hall (the festivals main venue) was transformed into a book lovers paradise. It’s felt homely, warm, and inviting. The stage stacked floor to ceiling with books and every kind of quirky item of decor that a writer could dream of. Hardwood desks, glowing lamps… you get the picture. But it wasn’t just the main hall, however, every window in the Main Street was decked out with books, words, artwork and really paid homage to the spirit of the festival.
Speaking of the town, every, single, person in the town, was not only on board about the festival but they were excited about the festival. There was a murmur, an energy, a welcome excitement.
Youth inclusivity and panel diversity
The program of events is what lead me to extend my stay in Bellingen and include the festival on my itinerary of events. And by extending my stay I mean, I forked out for a weeks extra accommodation just so I could attend the festival. The festival really catered for a wider, younger and more contemporary crowd. There was a specific panel titled ‘Writing for youth’ which emphasised the importance of encouraging a new generation of readers and writers, and calling them to the craft. The festival also included Young contemporary authors like Marieke Hardy, Lex Hirst, Lorna Munro and J.M Donellan which bridged the gap which exists between the target clientele of the National Young writers festival and the ‘established author’
Sessions were full
Every single session I went into, was full. And I don’t just mean a scattered crowd making a small venue look full, I mean big venues were packed out. Maybe it had something to do with the programming, or the venue, or the location or the panelists I’m not entirely sure. All I know is, whatever Bellingen is doing, they’re doing it right.
This is a fairly personal one. No one likes question time. Even if my all time favourite author happened to be on the panel there’s probably a 78% chance that I wouldn’t have the guts to ask that burning question. But, I can tell you that the negative chance jumps to 187% when the process of asking a question involves standing up, walking to the middle of the room, and being focused on by a spotlight. No no no. The roving mic is a godsend and Bellingen my hat goes off to you. From me and every other slightly socially anxious individual aka most book worms and word nerds, I thank you.