Left – Tracey Moffat
Sitting in the sun, amongst marquees and milling people, programme in hand, I slurp back my soba noodle delight and decide what move I will make next. Decision has never been my strong point and as I survey the scene, I realise most people are the same as me. During the course of this three day Writers Festival, a smorgasbord of choice and offerings, this point will be hammered home: I am not alone.
Festivals are not only about ‘the reason for being there’ but moreover a joining of forces (punters and providers) to celebrate LIFE. From sponsors to authors, artists and even the diverse food venues on offer - this is a meeting of minds and it is food for the soul: I eat my way around the festival, talking to old friends and new.
Writers and authors bring our ideas, unformulated, to the fore with their insight, intuition, ambition and determination. Through their experiences, observations and sheer talent, we can share their vision through their written words and visual delivery. We embrace them, hold them in awe and wonder how they survived and thrived; they show us a side to ourselves that could do better, could strive further and laugh/love longer. They are, as one panel discussed, ‘balm for our soul’.
Eddie Ayers in Conversation with Bernard Zuel: “Depression can be a great clarifier, managed carefully, can be useful”: transitioning, gender dysphoria and teaching music in Kabul in troubled times. Bernard asks, “What did it teach you?” Eddie answers, “Not to lie to myself; under stress I am brave; cut down on drinking and gave up smoking; comfortable talking to anyone and I really, really care about my students.”
Anxiety and depression, so common in our times (was it always so?) with creatives – sensitive, communicative, holding a mirror to our world, offering us comedy, tragedy, art, music and political possibilities. They have suffered for us, journalised the experience and discussed it on panels of peers that gobsmacked the complacency out of me. VOTE 1 Tanya Plibersek and Gillian Triggs and let’s see Kitty Flanagan and Mandy Nolan in parliament, too! Tracey Moffatt, Visual Artist: Dismantling the Conventions of Storytelling, admits that “you have to sit still to be a writer,” yet her photo-narrative genre shows us she cannot sit still, mercifully! Asked whether “imagery, as an artist, would have the power to change political minds?” Tracey had to admit that this was hard to answer. Rightly so! If all the learned panelists with their collective writings, knowledge, degrees, studies and science can’t shift the balance of parliamentary waste and destruction, on every level of human-kindness, we might need more than a picture or a word. BUT these creative minds and souls are at the coal-face (don’t mention coal) and they are living proof that without these seekers-of-truth, these tellers-of-tales, these keepers-of-the-faith, teachers, songwriters, comedians, environmentalists, poets and writers of all genres, exposing their frailties or strengths, the world would be a poorer place. Without empathy, philosophy and philanthropy, exposed to a wider audience, we would all still be in the dark. As one of the panellists at one of the many sessions quoted, “I was reading myself back into wellness.” Byron Writers Festival gave everyone the opportunity, with so much on offer, leading up and following on from the three day festival-proper, to witness and absorb: inspiration for the next generation to be involved; to write themselves onto a new page and to know that they CAN make a difference by exercising their choice and their voice.
As Edwina Johnson, Director of the Byron Writers Festival introduces this year’s feast:
“The Festival is an examination of how we live both on a personal level and as a society. It offers writers and patrons alike an opportunity to reflect our world back to each other in story. It examines everything from how we communicate, how we migrate, how we farm, how we cope with grief, how we process change - how we live resonates throughout festival sessions. The Festival offers us space to enjoy ‘the art of listening’ and seeing where conversations and stories can take us.”
The Festival took me around the world and back home again, with love and new inspiration. Thank you everyone.
2018 Byron Writers Festival
Venue: Various | Byron Bay NSW
Dates: 3–5 August 2018