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Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 in Announcements, Culture, Personal | 0 comments

A literary festival in Newcastle

Rosemarie Milsom, a journalist at The Newcastle Herald is organising an inaugural writers’ festival in this fair city. She has created a Newcastle Writers’ Festival website, and there will be some major announcements about the festival later this week (with more to follow in the lead-up).

I don’t want to steal her, or the festival’s, thunder too much… but I’ll do so a little bit anyway. First, I’m excited that this event is taking place. Newcastle is a medium-sized city with a rich artistic culture, but very little in the way of a public literary and intellectual culture. There are doubtless reasons for that, not the least that a major international city (Sydney) is only a couple of hours away by car. Indeed, Sydney is so geographically huge, with a low population density and an immensely sprawling suburbia, that we’re not much more isolated, here, from what goes on in its CBD than are people who live in its outer suburbs. I suppose there’s a question why Newcastle needs a literary culture of its own when Sydney’s is on tap, and of course there’s the factor that successful writers based in Newcastle find it very tempting to shift those 100 miles south.

Still, Newcastle is big enough in its own right to sustain a public literary and intellectual culture, and to profit by bringing authors from elsewhere to rub shoulders with their local peers and present ideas to local audiences.  Furthermore, we have people based here who are contributing significantly to the larger culture – nationally and internationally – and who deserve some local recognition. And conversely, the culture of the city would benefit if it were easier for locally based authors to interact with local audiences.

In all, I’m very glad that this festival is going ahead, and I’m proud to be associated with it, helping out in various small ways. In particular, I’ll be facilitating two panels – both them with big-name panelists whose names will be revealed a bit later on. One panel is about speculative fiction, while the other relates to secularism.

I’ll have more news about the festival as the time (early April) approaches. As I said above, there will be some official announcements later this week. Any of my readers who are based in or near Newcastle or Sydney might well want to bookmark the festival’s site and consider coming along.

Edit: See also this post by Magdalena Ball, which has more detail. I’m looking forward to seeing how much is announced at the media launch tomorrow, i.e. 13 February). The most salient bit is:

Media launch details When: 11am, Wednesday, February 13 at The Lock-Up Cultural Centre, 90 Hunter Street, Newcastle. Who: Local best-selling authors Jaye Ford (crime) and Deborah Challinor (historical fiction), NWF organiser Rosemarie Milsom and Newcastle NOW manager Michael Neilson attending.