Thought I would bring you some
inspiration this blog. At least I hope it inspires you as it did me. Not so long ago I met a couple of ladies
from the Burdekin (the area a just outside Townsville) at a writer’s workshop. These workshops are a must for the budding
author just for the wonderful people you meet if nothing else. These lovely ladies of whom Chris Stewart is
one decided to organise a writer’s festival in Ayr, the town they live in.
Below is just a small portion of the
interview I did with Chris who along with the other ladies did an incredible
job organising the first Burdekin Readers’ & Writers’ Festival that was held on Friday
& Saturday, July 17th & 18th, 2015 in the
Burdekin Library and Burdekin Theatre complex.
I have been up here for about 18 months
missing Sydney and what Sydney offers culturally and whinging. Well, Chris and Co proved to me that what I
thought I was missing is a state of mind and if I look hard enough that same
state of mind is all around me alive and kicking. I look forward to bringing you more from Ayr
in the near future.
The background to this interview is
simply that a small group of amateur writers known as Pen Pushers began meeting in Ayr
in 2013. Having experienced Writers’ Festivals and Writers’ Workshops in
other cities and towns, they felt it would be wonderful to offer both their and
neighbouring communities the opportunity to experience something similar. And
so “Ignite Your Mind” Burdekin Readers’ & Writers’ Festival was born. Check out the link at the end of the
Barb: Chris, if you had to
sum up the festival in just a few words, what would you say?
Chris: It exceeded our expectations.
Barb: What was it that made
the difference? I can tell by your
attitude that it really did just that.
Chris: Saturday was the
biggest day as was expected. People now know that it is fun and enjoyable and
stimulating to attend a festival & listen to authors. They didn’t know it
before but they know it now. Their eyes were opened and I believe they are hooked.
This augurs well for future festivals.
Barb: What was a
Chris: Everyone was raving
about the dinner on the Friday night. There were about 100 guests plus all our
authors. The authors enjoyed it because it was different – a local flavour. We had them as guest speakers and the
audience enjoyed their talks. We had a great mix of authors. They were all so
friendly and approachable and keen for our first Festival to succeed.
Barb: How was the festival
Chris: Three of our authors gave writing workshops of two and a
half or three hours plus ABC Open, and they were so well attended I couldn’t
believe how many Ayr people were interested in writing. All of the authors had
at least two sessions whereby they talked about their books, their craft, their
lives or anything else that took their fancy. The audience had the opportunity
to ask questions of the authors. Some sessions were panels and also QWC ran one
Barb: Who did you use to chair/moderate the sessions?
Chris: We were fortunate to
have a number of local teachers and former teachers and a journalist who took
on this vital role. None of them had fulfilled this role before – it was a new
experience for them. It involved lots of preparation & commitment and they
all did an admirable job and I would say are keen to front up again. Some of
the authors also had a stint at asking the questions.
Barb: Were the workshop
participants from outside Ayr?
Chris: There were some from Townsville and Charters Towers. On the
whole we didn’t get many visitors from the regional centres which was
disappointing as we tried so hard to spread the word. However, the ones who did
come will entice their friends to come next time I’m sure.
Barb: Who was a crowd
Chris: People loved Nick
Earls – he is so funny. David Hunt (Girt) was popular and he’s a funny man too.
Matthew Condon was our serious writer (police & political corruption) and
mesmerised his large audience with tales of what went on in Queensland in the
50’s to 80’s. Robert Hoge was inspirational – he’s such a lovely man. All of
the others were popular and interesting and gave great talks and it was lovely
to see two of our local authors in the limelight as well.
Barb: It couldn’t have been
easy to organise. I know there’s not
many of you.
Chris: It was a huge
organisational task for a small committee but so worth it. I can’t believe we
pulled it off. We’re so lucky we got good sponsorship from local businesses as
well as our library and JCU.
Barb: So, will we see you
again next year?
Chris: No, I personally
won’t be involved but I believe the Festival will be on again next year.