Write this one into the history books. The first Bendigo Writers Festival has arrived – with a bang. A year in the planning, it has gathered momentum over the months, as one by one the writers came on board, and the program began to take shape around them.
And it looks like being a huge success; today’s schools’ sessions sold out weeks ago, and Festival Pass sales suggest many sessions will be at capacity across the weekend.The Capital released a small number of two-day passes yesterday, and has held a few two-day and Sunday passes for last-minute sales at the venue.
The packed program brings to Bendigo a who’s who of writing, big names like Ita Buttrose and David Marr, as well as new writers, such as this year’s Vogels Award winner Paul D Carter and Bendigo-born Andrew Grimes, who has just launched the first of his historic crime series.
Ita Buttrose, who has been so much in the news, has just released her updated memoir, so her presence in Bendigo is perfect timing.
Since David Marr agreed to be the opening night keynote speaker, he has officially retired from his long career with the Sydney Morning Herald as their most respected columnist, but he’s also entered the fray again.
He was named by Opposition leader Tony Abbott this week as a journalist who gets away with “upsetting conservative Christians in his attempt to have them see the error of their ways” (over same-sex marriage laws, for instance). And next month, his long Quarterly Essay on Tony Abbott will be published.
Don Watson is trying to hose down readers’ excitement about his next book, which he doesn’t want to talk about but is right in the throes of finishing. Whatever you do, don’t mention the “bush”!
And Gideon Haigh, Sulari Gentill and Leigh Hobbs have hardly had time to unpack their bags from their Byron Bay Writers Festival appearances, before they are packing again to head to Bendigo, for our inaugural event.
“For a first-time event, we have to be happy with this momentum,” council City Futures director Stan Liacos said.
“Well done to all.”
Bendigo Weekly general manager Peter Kennedy said the response to the Festival has exceeded expectations.
“When we first put this idea to the City of Greater Bendigo council and La Trobe University, everyone said, yes, it’s time,” Mr Kennedy said.
“It’s been a great effort by all concerned to make it happen.
“We hope all the visiting writers and everyone who comes to the first festival enjoys this milestone in Bendigo’s history.”
Tickets to keynote sessions: are available from The Capital box office, 5434 6100. Tickets to Deep and Meaningful: readings in the Central Deborah Gold Mine, Saturday at 3pm: 5443 8322.