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Bendigo Writers Festival grows big ideas on regional ground

Lizzie Lamb

Alongside novelists, poets and short-fiction writers, people who use words to shift public consciousness are front and centre in this year’s program.
Bendigo Writers Festival grows big ideas on regional ground

The iconic Capital Theatre is the hub for the Bendigo Writers Festival on in August; Image: supplied.

Rosemary Sorensen, Director of the Bendigo Writers Festival, knows her town has what it takes to be a world-class magnet for arts tourists in need of fresh air. And with Bendigo just 90 minutes away from Melbourne by car, and a relaxing two hours 20 minutes by train, there’s no excuse not to see what’s virtually on your doorstep.

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‘Technology has made a mockery of what we used to think of as the tyranny of distance,’ Sorensen said.

‘If you can see something worth doing, it can be done in such a place [as Bendigo]. And because it is not at all remote, there's a productive flow of ideas and acumen between this small city and the entire region.’

While the area’s Gold Rush history is the main draw for some, others are attracted to Bendigo by the success of recent exhibitions, whose wonders have also spurred the growing community of local creators on to new heights. And as the local community grows, so does their passion for insights and ideas.

‘My festival ethos is to make it as inclusive, as thoughtful, as good as it possibly can be – which is an aim that, with a city this size, is not unachievable. You should have seen the roads 10, 15 years ago,’ Sorensen reminisced. ‘It’s so easy now, and people are making the journey.’

The numbers back her up. For example, Bendigo Art Gallery’s Marilyn Monroe exhibition has seen over 90,000 people willing to make the trek, with 43% coming from Melbourne and 10% of attendees travelling from interstate.

Photo by Allen Clarke.

The Bendigo Writers Festival is looking to hook a more cerebral, but equally hefty crowd, with Sorensen’s robust program designed to foster both community and deep thought. It’s also a little provocative.

‘We're taking a risk by putting up a big screen and videolinking Rob Manne with Julian Assange, in a year when whistleblowing has been so important to our collective sanity.’

Alongside novelists, poets and short-fiction writers, people who use words to shift public consciousness are front and centre in this year’s program. According to Sorensen, ‘It’s wrong to say writing is only one thing,’ so the schedule is packed with people like Stephanie Alexander and John Bell; people willing to share a slice of the sublime with the rest of us.

‘Brilliance disarms me, and I'm very pleased to acknowledge it,’ she said.

To find out more about the upcoming Bendigo Writers Festival visit http://bendigowritersfestival.com.au/

About the author

Lizzie Lamb has been writing since she was a little itty bitty thing. She can be found copywriting at www.threebagsfullcopy.com, or doodling some especially silly therapy of her own over at Things I'll Never Do. Other than writing, she is most likely to be found drawing, reading, cooking, singing, dressmaking or gradually watching every film and television show ever made. She has a Bachelor of Creative Arts (University of Melbourne), a Master of Writing (Swinburne) and she's not afraid to use them.

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