This weekend Wollongong welcomed writers, readers and creative minds to the second annual Wollongong Writers Festival.
Festival Coordinator Chloe Higgins brought the festival into its second year while completing a Creative Arts (Honours) degree and working as Project Management and Admin Assistant at the South Coast Writers Centre. The festival aims to celebrate the literary and exploring how writers interact with the contemporary world, and as the organisers take pride in falling under the banner of ‘emerging’ in all aspects of the process, the people speaking on the panels and running workshops were largely emerging artists.
“However, we also have more established artists like Ron Pretty, who is the gem of Australian poetry; we’re launching the SCWC Anthology which was curated by Ron Pretty and Mark Tredinnick; we’ve got people like Patrick Lenton and Oliver Mol, both of whom have appeared at multiple writers festivals around the country; and Lorin Reid, who is quite well known in the spoken word community,” Chloe explains. “So we’re just really trying to bring together a lot of different groups, both emerging and established.”
“Basically, I was sitting with a mate in a 5:30 tutorial about to head up to another writers festival, and we were kind of wondering how on earth Wollongong didn’t have a writers festival. So we thought, we could do this ourselves – we have no idea what we’re doing, but why not? We ended up pulling the festival together in a ridiculous 8 weeks,” Chloe recalls. “We did it on $300 worth of funding, and the whole thing only lasted about 8 hours. This year though, we really wanted to make it community wide and much more inclusive, so we’re taking it out of the institution and back into the community, and now it’s turned into a five day extravaganza.”
Find out why festival organisers were “blown away, stoked” in this video interview.
The first event of the festival, Rock and Rhyme, was an open mic night for rhyming poetry and song, held at Dicey Riley’s on Wednesday 8th and organised by the SCWC and Ron Pretty. The festival officially kicked off on Friday night, with a party that simultaneously launched the SCWC anthology Seeking Horizons and Tertangala’s Gender and Sexuality issue.
“[Chloe] gave me the opportunity to get involved and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done,” Tertangala Co-editor Belinda Quinn said emphatically at the launch party. “We’re all rough and struggling and don’t really know what we’re doing but we all give it a go anyway.”
“This issue that we’re launching, kind of is the biggest and best issue that we’ve done all year,” Belinda said. “It’s also the first issue to ever have a ‘c-bomb’ on the front cover, so, hope you enjoy that. We’ve got some great articles in there – there’s even one article on how to pee standing up for female bodied people, so you can learn a lot.”
The festival was held at a variety of venues, with Art Arena Gallery, North Wollongong Hotel, Dicey Rileys and Wollongong City Gallery hosting events. The line-up included panels such as ‘Poetry and Revolutions’, ‘Who Says Shorter Isn’t Better?’, ‘Art in Isolation: Creative Communities’, ‘Opportunities in Digital Writing and Publishing’, and a ‘Film Makers Q&A’ session. Workshops covering writing for children, black out poetry, script and short stories ran throughout the festival, as well as live performances by Melanie April, Novak Manojlovic, The Facades and King Colour.
The Literary Trivia competition organised by the UOW Literary Society kept everyone entertained after the final panel on Saturday, before handing over the floor to the much anticipated Inter-Uni Poetry Slam individual and team competitions. UOW’s slam poetry team went head to head with the 2013 champions UNSW and a new team from UTS, with UOW placing first. Featured slam poets Eunice Andrada, Gloria Demillo and Lorin Reid acted as mentors for the groups.
“This year we’ve teamed up with a few different groups, including the South Coast Writers Centre, ABC Open, UOW Literary Society, Enough Said Poetry Slam, Papergirl Wollongong and Tertangala,” Chloe said. “We’re really lucky to have been given funding from Culture Bank Wollongong, Wollongong City Council, the South Coast Writers Centre, and the University of Wollongong.”
Chloe has found the response to the festival to be overwhelmingly positive, remarking on large attendance numbers at the first event and online correspondence.
“I think the community’s really been crying out for it for quite a while and they’re really happy to see something like this happening,” she said.
For more information on the Wollongong Writers Festival, visit wollongongwritersfestival.com
Take a look inside one of the Wollongong Writers Festival workshops with this photo gallery.
Want to re-live the festival? UOWTV have compiled these live tweets from the WWF for you.