On caring

I wish I didn’t care, but I do.

I was talking this week to someone who organises many big literary events, and she (it’s usually a woman) was very down about an international author cancelling an appearance later this year.

I could hear in her voice the kind of melancholy I feel when something goes wrong, gets in the way, has to change, along the way as we draw near Bendigo Writers FestivalContinue reading

Agree or disagree: maybe that’s not the question?

Books are one very big reason we can feel hopeful that so much of the everyday nastiness we have instant access to can be counter-acted by decency, thoughtfulness, fairness and wit.

It’s why Writers Festivals are so popular – not mega-popular stadium extravaganzas fueled by celebrity, but crowded, energetic and increasingly in-demand nevertheless.

We do want to hear our own thoughts – whether inklings, half-formed ideas or fully-fledged passions expressed with clarity and style. So we flock to hear writers talk. The nodding head is seen more often at a writers festival than on car dashboards.

People do say, why isn’t there more debate at festivals? Why aren’t there more ding-dong battles over ideas and ideologies?  Continue reading

Discussion is not cage-fighting

Who knows why Ayaan Hirsi Ali cancelled at the last minute her tour of Australia. What we do know is that it must be devastating for the event organisers, who will have been preparing for this very visible, very contentious, very much anticipated visit for a very long time. If security is an issue, as has been reported, from whom does the threat come? Surely not the group of women who criticise Hirsi Ali as “not speaking” for them.

We are in a real pickle… sorry to use such a lame expression, but somehow, more emotive language seems wrong here. It’s a pickle all right, when we stamp and grunt and shout and push and even threaten to shove, hurt and silence, those we don’t agree with.

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Join the dots to make a map to show us how to live

We call it “joining the dots”, our Bendigo Writers Festival commitment to the Central Victorian region as a place where good conversation happens in very nice venues.

On Sunday arvo, April 2, we went to Maryborough Railway Station, one of the loveliest buildings you could imagine, way too grand for the little city it’s attached to, but full of history and memories.

To talk about Place and Memory, we invited two exceptional writers – Robyn Davidson and Raimond Gaita. Kate Bond, who runs the cafe, did us proud, providing taster wines from the region, and good food – not to mention excellent coffee. Continue reading

Making festival 2017

As the Castlemaine State Festival unfolds, with all the joy – and a bit of backchat – that is generated around it, Bendigo Writers Festival, just half an hour down the road and five months down the calendar, is taking shape for August 11-13, and it already is giving me sleepless nights!!

With one of our out-of-season outreach events due to take place on Sunday April 2 at Maryborough Railway Station, and then on May 21 another one in Dunolly, the obvious stuff is front of mind – booking the writers, thinking about the venue and details for the events, trying to let people know it’s on. But those of us who are responsible for events such as these never lose sight of the bigger picture: why are cultural events important and how should they be created, in what spirit, for what purpose, for whom, where, when… and on it goes.

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Vox Bendigo Fyffe Writing Award 2017

Now in its third year, the Vox Bendigo Fyffe Writing Award opens for entries on Wednesday February 1, and closes on Wednesday April 26.

La Trobe Uni lecturer, poet and writer Scott Alterator was integral to the VB process last year, hosting the celebration at Bendigo Writers Festival where we launched the tiny zine, designed by Jacqui Lynch, featuring the winning poems by Tru Dowling and Melinda Kallasmae.

Rod Fyffe has come up trumps (!) once more, with funding assistance, so this year, to keep it fresh and evolving, we’ve divided the Award into two categories: Poetry and Essay. Continue reading