Festival Muse 2019: Alice Pung in conversation with Sam Vincent

Muse FestivalFestival Muse, a literary festival run by one of our favourite places in town, Muse, now seems to be a fixture on the Canberra Day long weekend calendar. For the last two years Mr Gums and I have attended the Opening event, which this year was titled Moments of Wonder. As Opening Night was also International Women’s Day, the event was dedicated to women: it featured Sarah Avery, Aunty Matilda House, Kate Legge, Alice Pung and Annika Smethurst talking about their moments of wonder. Unfortunately, due to illness in my family, we had to cancel our attendance this year, but social media tells me it was excellent as usual.

However, I did fit in a one-hour Saturday afternoon session – and was accompanied by Daughter Gums, who was in town.

Alice Pung in conversation with Sam Vincent

Alice Pung will be known to most Australians. Based in Melbourne, she has written several books, including  two memoirs, Unpolished gem (read before blogging) and Her Father’s Daughter (my review), a young adult novel Laurinda, and Close to home, a collection of essays which inspired this conversation. She has also edited an anthology titled Growing up Asian in Australia, and she writes for Monthly magazine. Pung was in conversation with Canberra-based writer, Sam Vincent, whose 2015 book Blood and guts: Despatches from the whale wars was short and longlisted for various awards.

Sam Vincent and Alice PungThe back cover blurb for Close to home describes it as covering “topics such as migration, family, art, belonging and identity.”  However, given migration is the major theme running through Pung’s work, the conversation focused on this and the migrant experience in Australia. What was both interesting and chastening was that her family’s experiences were (are?) so very like those of indigenous Australians that are shared in Growing up Aboriginal in Australiaexcept that indigenous Australians get called different names and aren’t told to “go back to where you came from”! It’s particularly chastening because of the generosity with which so many migrants and indigenous Australians respond to the racism they live with on a daily basis. Pung talked about the racist comments yelled at them in the 1980s – the “go back to where you came from” variety – but commented that at the time Australia was going through a recession so the anger was understandable.

Pung talked quite a bit about her family, but much of that is covered in her two memoirs, so I won’t repeat them here. Vincent asked her about the difference between the subjects of her writing and her readers. Pung agreed that yes, her mother’s generation, the subjects of her stories, is not very literate. Consequently, the people she writes about rarely read what she says, and the people who read her tend to be middle-class white-haired white Australians. Guilty as charged! She doesn’t mind, though – as long as people are reading her books!

Alice PungPung talked a little about the traditional narrative arc of the migrant success story – and her desire not to write that. She talked about how when you sit people down to interview them their voice changes into this narrative of success, but she wants their own voices.

What I found particularly interesting was her discussion of racism and class. There’s the obvious racism – the name-calling, the “go back where you came from” shouts, and so on – but there’s also the softer, more patronising racism from people who believe themselves not racist. Questions from university-educated people, she said, such as “your mother has been here for 20 years, why doesn’t she speak English?”, indicate a lack of understanding of migration.

Continuing this theme, she understands, for example, people who follow Pauline Hanson while saying to her, “Youse are the good ones”. People she said are kind individually despite the confronting stickers on their cars. She understands “working class racists” because own parents are working class.

She talked about how “class” underpins racism. As a young qualified lawyer, she was getting nowhere in her interviews for law jobs because she was not dressed the way a middle-class white Australian professional would dress. She appreciated honesty from her friends she said, such as the one who explained her dress issue to her. As soon as she changed her dress she started getting interview call-backs, even though the content of her interview responses hadn’t changed. She realised then how class works.

She referred, during the conversation, to a number of migrant and/or refugee writers including Christos Tsiolkas, Benjamin Law and Anh Do. She quoted Tsiolkas who has said that the middle class can write what they like – be as liberal as they like – but refugees will always be placed in working class communities!

Pung has a broad, historical understanding of racism. Since white settlement of Australia, she said, some group has always been ostracised – the Irish, then Greeks and Italians, then Asians, and so on. (Such racism, she argued, is not confined to Australia.) She also teased out the oft-criticised racism found in migrant communities themselves. Her parents, for example, suffered significantly under the Pol Pot regime before they came to Australia. What settled, established migrants fear, she suggested, is not so much “other” but civic unrest. She also noted that migrants from unstable countries trust democracy and, in doing so, trust and believe Australian newspapers. A newspaper like the Herald-Sun, which the educated middle-class might reject, is perfect for many migrants because it uses simple sentences. Racism, she said, is nuanced – and has less to do with colour than with class.

Vincent also asked her about her voice, her use of vernacular, in her books. She talked about wanting to use the language used by people like her parents, a less formal language. You can talk like Kevin Rudd, she said cheekily, and have only 30% of what you say be understood, or you can talk simply to be fully understood. She appreciated her first editor who left usages in like “youse”. She also talked about her parents’ humour, and their wonderful use of metaphors despite their basic English. She admitted that she was fortunate to have been perpetually embarrassed by her parents! She said she had to write her first books carefully because she “didn’t want to tell a success story, but an Aussie battler story”.

Regarding her intentions for her writing, she strongly rejected having a didactic aim – no one wants a message, she said. However, she hoped her books did inform and educate. She reiterated this during the Q&A when she was asked what she would say to Pauline Hanson if she ever met her face-to-face. She said that she doesn’t believe you can change someone by saying something to them in a one-off situation like that, but that books might change people.

She agreed with Vincent’s suggestion that there’s a dearth of working class voices in Australian literature.

Q & A

There was a Q & A, but I’ve incorporated the main points into the discussion above. However, Daughter Gums’ final question went down a different path. The question was inspired by the work Pung does with school students, and concerned whether school students ask different questions to those asked by adults. Yes, said Pung, they don’t have the filter that adults have, so can ask bald questions like “how much money do you earn?” Pung gave us her answer, explaining the numerical and thus economic difference between an Australian best-seller (10,000 books sold) and an American one (10,000 sold per week!)

She shared some entertaining and enlightening anecdotes throughout the conversation and Q&A, but I reckon we should all read her book(s) to enjoy those!

I must say that I found thirty-something Pung articulate, warm, and grounded. She makes serious points, and tells difficult stories at times, but with a grace that’s inspiring. A big thanks to Muse for including her in this year’s event.

Alice Pung Close to home
Festival Muse
Saturday 9 March, 2.30-3.30pm

Festival Muse 2018: Turn me on

Muse FestivalWoo hoo, Muse, which is one of my favourite places in Canberra, is running its second Muse Festival this long weekend in Canberra. As last year, Mr Gums and I went to the opening event, Turn me on, last night -and it was different but also good. Different because last year’s opener, Women of the Press Gallery, was a panel discussion, while Turn me on comprised separate, short, roughly 10-minute talks by five speakers on the given topic, which was how they got turned on to politics or to the passion they have for their field of work. Muse was looking, in particular, for “the lightbulb moments and hidden drivers” behind the speakers’ passions for what they do.

Turn me on

The speakers were a varied bunch, but they had at least one thing in common – they’re “prominent locals”:

  • Michael Brissenden, political journalist and foreign correspondent for the ABC since 1987
  • Zoya Patel, founder of Feminartsy
  • Roland Peelman, director of the Canberra International Music Festival
  • Elizabeth Lee, Liberal MLA in Canberra’s Legislative Assembly
  • Jacob White, staffer for Federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh, and co-ordinator last year of the Australian Marriage Equality group’s postal survey campaign in the ACT

Michael Brissenden

Of the five speakers, Brissenden had the longest-standing Canberra cred having been born here in the 1960s, to parents who were part of the first big wave of academics coming to the ANU in the 1950s-1960s. He provided us with an entertaining picture of a Canberra very different to the one we know now, back when it was “six suburbs in search of a city”. There were few restaurants, so people made their own fun: they had parties. You would, he said, have historian Manning Clark “banging on” in one corner of a room, and poets AD Hope and David Campbell doing the same in another. What fun, eh? You needed, he said, a sense of humour to enjoy Canberra then.

He shared a couple of songs written by his father, RF Brissenden – “Canberra Blues” and “Gough and Johnny were lovers” (with its line “never trust a cur [Kerr]”) commenting on the 1975 dismissal. Being interested in politics, he said, was unavoidable in his house. Canberra is still a small place and can be suffocating at times. But it is also full of inspiring, intelligent people. No wonder, he said, they, like himself, keep coming back. (We know what he means.)

Zoya Patel

Zoya Patel, Festival MusePatel cut right to the chase. What turns me on, she said, is feminism. She then joked that there was a time – her early dating days – when her strong attachment to feminism was a turn off! Clearly though, the dates who reacted like that didn’t last, because her commitment to feminism remained strong.

She gave us a brief history of her trajectory as a feminist. She talked of her upbringing within a Fiji-Indian culture, where it was not considered normal for girls to have strong ideas, particularly political ones, and her staring to write, at the age of 15, for local feminist magazine, Lip Magazine. She spoke of how she’d been told that feminism was irrelevant, that women had won what they’d campaigned for. As a second-wave feminist from the 1970s, I remember being horrified by this attitude in the 1980s and ’90s, and am thrilled to see feminism on the rise again and in hands like Patel’s.

She talked about tipping-points that have kept her strong – such as encountering online trolling when she took Lip Magazine online – and about founding the cleverly named Feminartsy. She sees feminism as being about sisterhood, saying that “as many we are strong”. She’s pleased that feminism has gone from turn off to turn on!

Roland Peelman

Peelman, whom we had enjoyed earlier this week when he gave the pre-concert talk at Musica Viva, felt a little uncertain about his place in the group. He was not a politician, he said, but a musician, and not an Australian or a Canberran, but a Belgian. However, the thing about Peelman, who was also the artistic director of The Song Company for 25 years, is that he’s an engaging speaker.

He talked about attending a secular university in Ghent, which is still today a centre of positivist philosophy. This has informed his life he said. And, in one of those synchronicities we often talk about, he spoke of being on the barricades against missiles in Western Europe in the early 1980s. Regular readers here will remember our recent discussion about the Cold War on my review of Diana Blackwood’s Chaconne.

Peelman talked about the difference between Australia’s adversarial 2-party political system and the Belgian situation where government is made after the election (as has happened in Germany over recent months!) Talking to him afterwards, I suggested that the 2-party system may be breaking down with voters (here and elsewhere) increasingly voting for small parties. Peelman likes this form of “messy” democracy.

Finally, he talked about the politics of a small arts organisation (like The Song Company) battling big bureaucracy, and how they can survive despite the naysayers. Small arts companies do not work well within the constructs of economic rationalism. Music, he said, builds from community. And that’s as political as he’d get he said!

Elizabeth Lee

Local Liberal politician, Lee, started by noting how much we have in common despite our (political) differences.

What turned her on to politics or what encouraged her to chase a political career, she said, was her father. Korean-born, she grew up as the eldest of an all-girl family, so her father, she said, was a feminist from start. He told her that she was the needle, and her sisters the thread. She explained that her moving to Canberra to do Law at 18 years old was unusual for an Asian at that time. It means, though, that she has lived all her adult life here.

Lee then talked about how she went from not being interested in politics at university to working as a lawyer and getting involved in the Law Society, where she realised that she liked organising. Soon after, when she started work as a lecturer at the ANU, she joined the Liberal Party – because she agreed with the classic Liberal values which focus on “individual freedom and responsibility”. She described losing the 2012 election, and her father helping her see that politics seemed to be where she could contribute the most. She stood again in 2016 and won.

She also shared some disturbing examples of racist and sexist attacks she has faced, but said that she is committed to her (unsought for) leadership role as an Asian female politician.

Jacob White

Like Patel, White quickly identified the factors that led him to his political passion. He said an interest in process is something you are born with, and also that as the middle child of a family of five (with two older sisters and two younger) he got early practice as an agitator!

He also remembers being aware of the injustice of his Nana’s struggles. She was a single mum who had brought up 5 children including one with severe Down Syndrome. He described his early experience of activism, writing to local politicians when he was just 8 years old about lantana choking a play area – and succeeding in getting it removed. Finally, he talked about realising, when he was 11 or 12, that women were not for him, and soon seeing the injustices gay people lived with.

White said he was very involved in student politics, and from this experience came to work for Andrew Leigh. However, when they were all caught off-guard by the marriage equality postal vote, he took leave from this job to manage the campaign in Canberra.

He spoke about being from a small industrial town near Wollongong, with a father “in the steelworks”, and mother “at the RSL”. You don’t have to have a political background to do what he does he said, because “everyone’s life is inherently political.”

All in all, an engaging session, not the least because I got to hear and see some of Canberra’s new, young leaders, as well as seeing that some of the older hands still have things to offer!! Win-win, I’d say.

Oh, and the opening party drinks and canapes were great too – as you’d expect from Muse.

Thanks to Muse (particularly Dan and Paul) for another great event. As I’ve said before, what a great addition they’ve made to Canberra’s literary and arts scene.

Angharad at Tinted Edges has also posted on Festival Muse.

NOTE: Check the Muse link above for more Festival events.

Festival Muse: Question time – Robyn Cadwallader with Irma Gold

Robyn Cadwallader, Irma Gold

Cadwallader (L) and Gold in the Muse bookshop

Introducing the first event of their Sunday afternoon program, Dan, co-owner of Muse, commented on a peculiarity of Canberra: when they offer sessions on politics or history, they are packed out, but when the focus is fiction, the events are more intimate. Fine by me! I love small, cosy events. But it’s interesting, eh? Anyhow, we then got down to the event, which involved local author and editor, whom you’ve met several times here before, Irma Gold, interviewing local poet, essayist, novelist, Robyn Cadwallader, about her debut novel The anchoress (my review).

It was excellent. Gold structured her questions beautifully, starting with some background questions, moving through well-targeted questions about the book itself – well-targeted for me anyhow because she focused on historical fiction and feminism – and then ending with Cadwallader’s future plans. There was something for everyone – though I suspect most of us were interested in it all.

Gold commenced by providing a quick bio, which included the facts that Cadwallader migrated to Australia with her family when young, and that her background is academic writing. Gold shared Cadwallader’s shock that, when she moved from academic writing to fictional, her struggles with the dreaded term structure followed her! That made me laugh because I love thinking about structure in fiction. Gold also told us that The anchoress had been published in the USA and UK as well as Australia, and has been (or is being) translated into French. She said Marie Claire described The anchoress as “the book the whole literary world can’t stop talking about”. Wow, eh?

The interview commenced then with a brief discussion of Cadwallader’s early interest in books and writing, but let’s get to …

The anchoress

Robyn Cadwallader, The anchoressThe discussion started with Cadwallader doing a reading – and she chose the Prologue. That was great not only because it’s always (hmm, mostly) good to hear authors read from their own work, but also because it refreshed the book and some of its themes for me.

Gold said she’d never heard of anchoresses and asked Cadwallader what sparked Sarah’s particular story. Cadwallader responded that she’d come across anchoresses in her research for her PhD and, like Gold, was both horrified and fascinated by the concept. She said the inspiration for the story came from sitting in an anchorhold, unable to leave it, for an hour or so. It got her thinking about how it would feel to be in such a place forever. What would be the experience? She said her poetry is “about taking a moment and investigating it”. In this book, she took a small space and investigated it. Reinforcing her interest in focusing on the “experience”, she said she’d started writing the novel in 1st person but felt it wasn’t working, so tried 3rd but that didn’t work either. She then realised she had to be there to share the experience. She also made the point that she didn’t want Sarah to speak for all anchoresses.

Gold then honed in on the book’s genre, historical fiction, and asked Cadwallader how she went about separating her research from the writing. Cadwallader said she was lucky because she’d done so much research on the period before she started writing. She had to do a lot of thinking, however, and when she started writing she needed to do extra research on aspects she knew less well, such as village life and monasteries.

Next Gold moved onto how Cadwallader approached incorporating the history into the story. Cadwallader said she knew people would know little or nothing about anchoresses – how right she was! – but didn’t want to do exposition. She used the example of the section where Sarah stands in her cell (anchorhold) for first time. This was hard to write she said without “describing”. She tried to write it from Sarah’s experience in a way that would “show” modern readers, too, what it was like.

Some of the questions at the end concerned the historical fiction issue, so I’m sneaking them in here. Responding to what next, Cadwallader said that some people assumed she’d do a sequel! No, she said, as far as she’s concerned she’d wrapped up Sarah’s life and didn’t have anything more to say. Love it. This points, I think, to a difference between genre and literary-fiction. Genre tends to focus on plot, on the story of characters’ lives. Readers of genre love to get lost in – escape into – the characters’ lives and want to follow them, on and on. Readers of literary fiction – and they can be the same people, so I’m not suggesting a “snooty hierarchy” here – look for different things. They tend to be happy with ambiguous endings, and look forward to moving on to something different. I tend to be one of these readers. You could call me fickle.

Other questions picked up the relationship between fact/history and fiction, about the degree to which historical fiction should focus on the fact versus the fiction. Again, I loved Cadwallader’s considered response. She described historical fiction as an engagement between the present and the past. Writers, she said, need to balance what will communicate effectively with contemporary audiences and what’s accurate. She cited swearing as an example: a medieval oath, like “God’s teeth”, would not convey anger to a modern audience the way a modern swear word would.

Back to Gold now. Her next question concerned feminism. Yes! Was Cadwallader conscious of feminist issues from the start or did they emerge through the writing process. I loved Cadwallader’s answer. She said she was aware of feminist issues and theory from the start because her research had brought her face-to-face with medieval thinking about women, including the belief that women represent the body, and tempt men. However, she is concerned, she said, about historical fiction that wants to be positive about women. Such fiction needs to create strong, feisty women, but she wanted to explore what ordinary women experience.

So, her Sarah pretty soon finds her experience of her body starting “to bump against” the rule that tells her that her body is terrible. Cadwallader wanted to tell about ordinary women doing things that are not “spectacular”. She thinks some readers expected a “spectacular ending” but that would have plucked Sarah out of her context. Her approach to feminism was to describe these women’s experience, to honour them. She didn’t want to exploit them, but explore who Sarah was. She then talked about the village women. (They’re wonderful supporting characters in the book.) She didn’t want them to be “campaigners”, but wanted us to “see” them. It’s too easy for us to miss and not respect the ordinariness of women and what they do.

Muse bookshopGold ended with questions regarding how Cadwallader has handled her success and what her future writing plans were. Cadwallader talked about ongoing feelings of self-doubt and how easy it is to buy into criticism (rather, it seems, than praise). She described it – and being a writer, she used a metaphor – as being a headwind that you just have to keep walking into! And yes, she is writing another book. And yes, it’s mediaval-focused – to do with illuminators.

There was a brief Q&A, then it was over. We might have been an intimate group, but what a privilege to have been present at a conversation between an intelligent, warm interviewer and a thoughtful, open interviewee. Lucky us.

Festival Muse: Women of the Press Gallery

Muse FestivalMuse is one of my favourite places in Canberra. It’s a cafe-restaurant-winebar plus bookshop plus arts event space – self-described as “a meeting place for those who enjoy a grenache with their Grenville, and their Winton with a good washed rind”. They have offered many short, mostly afternoon events, in the 18 months of their existence, but this is their first festival. Mr Gums and I went to the opening event, Women of the Press Gallery. How great that they chose to begin with a woman-focused event in a week that contained International Women’s Day.

The event took the form of a conversation-style panel but first, the Festival was opened by the doyenne of (women) political journalists, Michelle Grattan. I put “women” in parenthesis because the qualification is not necessary – she’s a doyenne, full stop – and yet it’s relevant to the context of this event, if you know what I mean. She talked about her early days as a journalist in 1970s Canberra – and the role played by restaurants in journalists’ lives. Muse, she said, has taken this role to a new level, by merging food, books, politics and talk in one place. She did say more, but I want to focus on the event, so will just say that she opened Festival Muse, and we got on with it!

Women of the Press Gallery

The panel comprised:

  • Katina Curtis, political journalist and Canberra chief of staff with newswire AAP
  • Karen Middleton, The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent
  • Katharine Murphy, political editor of Guardian Australia
  • Primrose Riordan, political journalist, focusing on foreign affairs, with The Australian

The political

After a quick welcome and introduction from co-Muse-owner Dan, Karen Middleton opened proceedings,  by saying that she loved being “participating chair” because she got to chair the panel and contribute ideas as well! She said the topics they’d cover would be media, politics, and chicks in media and politics.

To get the conversation going, Middleton asked the panel whether they “take sides” in their writing. The ensuing conversation also took in how the media is changing, and the impact of this on journalists’ work. Each had slightly different perspectives, partly due to their different roles.

Katina Curtis, for example, works for a newswire service so she needs to frame her stories to make them saleable to different news outlets. She can’t therefore pick a side.

Primrose Riordan commented that tailoring stories to particular audiences is problematic. It impacts the quality of the journalism and affects what stories are chased. She talked about the push for “hits”, the desire for “clickbait” – and how this drives journalists to write stories that focus on emotionalism.

Katharine Murphy, who conversed with Charlotte Wood in my last post, commented that the centre has gone, leaving us with two extremes that repel each other. This loss of the centre has massive implications. She also argued that media should have values, because all facts are not the same. (We all loved that, of course.) Guardian Australia, she said, has a distinctive, progressive voice.

Karen Middleton commented on the missing centre, suggesting that the people who are disengaging most from politics are probably the centrists.

Riordan agreed, noting that people aren’t dealing well with what they disagree with. But she – who clearly wanted to make some political points about what’s happening to journalism itself – commented that journalism is also hollowed out. By this she meant the large-scale departure of experienced journalists before retirement age was resulting in the loss of their teaching/knowledge to the next generation.

Moving to a different – and interesting to me – tack, Murphy, with her long experience, talked about changes to the journalistic process. In the old print days, she said, she would file stories once a day. This provided the opportunity for journalists and their editors to choose the important stories. Now, though, filing tends to be continuous, because this is what you (that is, we readers) want. (I felt a bit accused at this point!) In this scenario, the NEW is prioritised over the IMPORTANT. We are all part of a social experiment, she said. In the early days of the transition from the traditional print cycle to the new live cycle, the journalism tended to be shoddy. However, she believes, with experience, it is improving.

This point regarding the prioritising of the new over the important gave me one of those light-bulb moments. Ah, yes, makes sense, I thought. In the rush to produce news, and particularly to beat your competitor in this “live cycle” world, there’s no time to explore the nuances, and analyse what’s really important. Later, but I’ll pop it in here, Riordan made some points about the negative impact of “free” journalism with its high level of advertisements and clickbait-driven content. We should value journalism and pay for it, she said.

The personal (is the political)

Middleton asked the panel for their greatest challenges (and here, to break things up a bit, I’ll dot-point):

  • Curtis talked about the constant need to file stories. It’s hard to get/be given the mental space to write something that feels well-informed, she said. The story changes as it is being written; the deadline is always now!
  • Riordan reiterated this point about the importance of investigative work (and referenced the movie, Spotlight, longingly!) Then she added her main challenge: “reading” what’s happening. Politicians can talk all day, she said, but journalists have to work out what is really going on.
  • Middleton concurred with Riordan’s point regarding what’s happening on the surface versus what’s going on underneath. She said journalists need to “read” the chamber in terms of the little things – facial expressions, note-passing, etc.
  • Murphy said that time was the big thing!

Next up, Middleton got onto the gender issue, asking the panel for their comments on life as female political journalists.

Curtis said that a friend had told her, before she joined the press gallery, that the women read and research while the men socialise and get news from the bar. She laughed that she finds herself doing the reading, and would rather like to get more news from the bar!

Riordan, ever the political one regarding journalists and journalism, commented on the challenge for mothers. Motherhood impacts careers. Men can stay late, while women usually can’t. This is still somewhat a barrier – though Curtis said that she feels lucky that the generation of women before her had forged the way so that being a mother and a journalist was now a little more normal. She was a little irritated though that though she (a mother of less than 18 months) has been covering education and childcare for 6 years, her male colleagues now suggest that she’s interested in those topics because she’s a mother.

Riordan also noted that the management of news organisations is still heavily male-dominated.

Murphy shared that when Michelle Grattan came to Canberra in 1973, she was one of the few women here – and had to do social pages! She was an important trailblazer. Murphy also stated that for women to prosper, they need to be better than men. They have to be persistent, resilient, tough, fair, and safeguard their reputation. She believes that some of Australia’s best journalism at present is coming from women.

Middleton asked the panel about life outside work. Riordan said that journalists have to be prepared to miss family events and that for press gallery journalists, “sitting weeks are insane”. Curtis said that the work is potentially all-consuming, but that having grown up in Canberra she has friends outside the profession which helps her separate. Murphy commented that she’s either “fully in” or “fully out”. This means that when she’s on leave, she completely disconnects from social media – and engages in her other interests.

The end

We then moved into Q&A, and while there were several questions, I’m going to share just one, the one which referred back to the loss of the centre. How, the questioner asked, can the middle be made more worthy (more interesting, I suppose, too)? Murphy suggested that it can be achieved by looking for opportunities to find common ground, by finding politicians and others who are more nuanced in their views. She commented that for many people politics is like religion, meaning it’s about belief not facts. For these people, if the facts don’t concur with their belief, they don’t listen. Hmm … that made me stop and think a bit about my own practice! Do I do this? I like to think not, but will have to watch myself …

Anyhow, moving right along, Curtis added that journalists feel what’s important but their editors don’t always agree. And Riordan commented on the diversionary tactics used by politicians such as putting out “announceables”  – like a new policy – to distract journalists from something else!

All in all, it was a lively evening spent in the company of intelligent, engaged and committed journalists. I learnt a lot about the pressures of modern journalism – and was entertained at the same time. Thanks Muse.

NOTE: Check out the Muse link above for more Festival events.