Storytelling is, and has always been, at the forefront of any culture: old as time itself. To be a storyteller, to my mind, extends an olive branch to other human beings. Like my story? Walk a mile in my shoes? Want to know what I am like? What I have discovered, through research (or life's experience) and how I am committing this information, truth, or fiction (in as many genres as you can possibly imagine) to garner your attention? To entertain you; enlighten you or give you a history that you may never have even known existed... Show you a better way to live, a more positive approach to this planet's future? Your life, and my book, are in your hands... what you do with it now is up to you!
Storytelling through the written word and imagery; through songlines and scripts; theatre fodder and thought fodder for a brave new world. Take up the challenge, read the book and listen to the stories. Byron Writers Festival, after two years of, well, you know what the last two years have been like for any thespian, musician, writer or cultural community, has embraced this theme and presented, yet again, another wonderful line-up of people and ideas, sharing with community Radical Hope.
As Zoe Pollock, Artistic Director of the 2022 Byron Writers Festival quotes, "To me, writers' festivals are at the forefront of making our culture, a forum where our deepest thinkers can put forward their visions for another world. They are the space to broaden the mind and wonder at the power literature and words have to connect us."
"The power of words to transcend our current reality" (also a quote from Zoe – Greek translation for "life") were ever-present over the three day event, with satellite events, workshops, and so much on offer, I heard one audience member, upon leaving one of the many marquees, say to her friend, "my brain is so full it is about to explode – in a good way!" Job done.
We laughed, we cried, we got angry and excited – never complacent. How could you be? So much information and giving a voice to First Nations writers and thespians, poets and comedians. Laugh? Oh yes... Mandy Nolan, Brian Brown, Steven Oliver, Matthew Condon, Trent Dalton, Matt Okine – really, not a dry eye in the audience. Writers and 'Chair' persons were on fire – and yes, climate change (no laughing matter) dealt with by scientific minds (and commitment), the overriding theme throughout the festival assuring us, "Now is the time for a radical kind of hope that imagines the world anew, that refuses to be defeated and finds delight and joy in everything this wonderful life on Earth have to offer."
The Making of Bundjalung Nghari – Indigenise, a production by NORPA, with Ella Noah Bancroft, Daniel Browning, Kylie Caldwell and chaired by the fabulous Rhoda Roberts, was enlightening, inspirational and "truth telling" for all of us to embrace. After eons of injustice on every level, First Nations people are finally able to teach us the true meaning of "respect for country". Hopefully we will actually listen, learn and implement their life skills within our own practice-of-living? New government, new hope? This, as Rhoda Roberts reflects, is "Vital... world turning... truth telling, awakening and reflecting a new lens on history, reflecting care and respect for country." Let us hope we haven't left it too late for our oldest culture in the world to show us the way out of the corruption and pollution we have brought to our every way of life – and give the respect that is due! "As a Nation, we have to own the truth." Vote One Rhoda Roberts.
Stories are what bind us together: everyone has a story. Writers give us the chance to be involved on so many levels: the information is there and the stories are real (even if they are fictional). Listening to the panel discuss sensitive and hot topics (An Equal World: Overcoming Patriarchy); Female Desire (enlightening); Life of Crime (with "The Festival Darling", Trent Dalton) and a laughing match happening on stage and flooring the audience in their wake; Soul Food: Nature and Inspiration with Christos Tsiolkas telling us, "As a writer, I have learnt lessons working in theatre, listening to actors and the process – how to hold myself in the character. I am given a remarkable gift by actors – through our bodies and our senses, we discover ourselves."
We were, yet again, through the words of the writers, given an insight, a new way of being (and seeing) and dealing (if we so choose to embrace the ideals and 'horrible histories') with issues that will not go away, if we don't step up and make the change now. Writers give us their words – only we can 'action that item'.
2022 Byron Writers Festival
Venue: Held on the lands of the Arakwal Bumberbin and Minjungbal peoples of the Bundjalung Nation | Land opposite Elements of Byron, NSW
Dates: 26 – 28 August 2022