Monday musings on Australian literature: Specialist literary festivals
Are you a reader of crime or science fiction or fantasy? Or, perhaps of poetry? A few weeks ago I wrote a post on regional literary festivals in Australia. I focused then on festivals for general and/or literary fiction. But, if you have specialist reading inclinations, there are also likely to be festivals for you. And so today I thought I’d post a selection – just to whet your appetite.
While I was researching that last post, I came across a couple of websites: literary festivals.com.au, which lists Australian festivals, andVampires in the Sunburnt Country, which publishes a literary festival calendar for Australia. They are worth checking out if you want to know whether a festival is coming to a town near you – or, better still, your own town.
As last time, I’ll list a randomly selected few – representing a variety of specialty and location – in the order of their establishment, starting with the oldest.
- Australian National Science Fiction Convention. Established in 1952, and run each year in different cities by different groups. This year’s festival will be held in Melbourne and run by a group called Continuum. Arthur C Clarke was a guest at the fourth convention held in 1955.
- Romance Writers of Australia Conference. Running now for 23 years, this is a big affair. It’s a 4-day event and will be held in Sydney this year, but moves around a bit I believe. It is, really, more conference for practitioners than festival for readers, but with “350 published and aspiring romance writers, editors, agents and other industry professionals” attending, I figured it’s worth mentioning. Romance is, clearly, serious business. And, anyhow, the conference will include a Literacy High Tea, which they describe as a networking event “for librarians, booksellers, authors and readers” that will also be a fundraiser the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.
- StoryArts Festival Ipswich. Established in 1995, and originally called the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature. It takes place biennially and is organised primarily by the Ipswich Teacher-Librarian Network (in Queensland). Good for them. Their aim is broad: “to increase an awareness of the value of the arts in relation to writing and illustration and help build and maintain increased audiences for children’s literature. We plan to inspire young people to buy and read more books and gain an appreciation of the processes involved in writing and illustrating. We also aim to enthuse teachers and parents about the value of stories and encourage them to promote literature to young people.”
- Perth Poetry Festival. Established in 2005 as the WA Spring Poetry Festival, and now run by WA Poets Inc. It is one of many poetry festivals held around Australia, including some dedicated to bush poetry and other poetry forms, which suggests that poetry is alive and well(ish) even if poets can’t make a living from their art!
- Jane Austen Festival Australia. Established in 2008 in Canberra, this is a 4-day Regency Festival which explores the world of Jane Austen. It includes a wide variety of activities and events including dancing, archery, historical costume making, a Jane Austen book club and lectures on literary and historical subjects. The 2014 conference included a half-day symposium on Mansfield Park.
- Reality Bites. Established in 2008, and run by the Sunshine Hinterland Writers’ Centre (in Queensland). (It may alternate with another festival titled Reality Writes, but the website doesn’t yet have its “About” page functional). It describes itself as “Australia’s premier literary nonfiction festival” and takes place on the last weekend in October each year. It sounds right up my alley but is rather far away.
- Death in July Festival. Established in 2014 – yes, this is its first year. In my last post I only selected festivals that had some longevity behind them but, Ballarat Writers Inc, which is organising this festival with Sisters in Crime, tweeted me about it. I reckon that deserves a guernsey. It celebrates women’s crime writing and will be held in Ballarat, Victoria, in July. Guests at this first festival will include Angela Savage whose The dying beach I reviewed earlier this year.
As you can see, most of these are pretty recent – though there are some longstanding ones. I haven’t included any play/theatre festivals but there are several of those too. It does seem that literary festivals of all sorts are popular at present – not only in cities but also in regional towns, which clearly hope that festivals will be part of their survival in our economically tough world.
Have you attended any speciality literary festivals? If so, what specialty has taken your fancy!