Today mum and I went to the Sydney Writers’ Festival to hear Kate Holden talk on a panel about memoir (with Alice Pung and David Hill). Unfortunately, even though we were early, the room filled up and we had to sit outside, but they very kindly were playing the audio from all the full houses on speakers outside the venue, so we got to sit outside and soak up the ambience of the Festival while hearing the three writers talk about their very different memoirs.
I ran into Peter Bishop, the Varuna Creative Director, on the way into the Festival. I think he remembered me…I reminded him that I’m coming back to Varuna in a couple of weeks – it’s so soon! Every time I think of it I get excited all over again. I think I might have already mentioned that…
It was a gorgeous day, one of those beautiful Sydney autumn days, where it’s quite sunny and mild with a slight coolness to the air. The Festival is held down at the Hickson Road wharves, in the STC/SDC/Sydney Philharmonia venues, and it’s such a great spot, all industrial and angular, with the Harbour Bridge rising over the top of it all, bordered by the warm sandstone and the glittering water. Makes you really appreciate this city on days like today.
I was quite pleasantly surprised at the feel of the Festival – it was as crowded as I had anticipated, but had this really laid back, funky, villagey feel. Of course there were heaps of pretentious people swanning around – they were the ones wearing hats, interesting spectacles and/or artfully draped shawls – and that whole scene is the main reason I have avoided the Writers’ Festival up until now. But aside from them there were plenty of genuinely interesting people, including many who seemed vaguely familiar, and I eventually realised it was because they were famous authors. Wandering around the Gleebooks bookshop I kept hearing snatches of fascinating conversations and just enjoyed being there. I bought three books: The Messenger by Markus Zusak, the little red writing book by Mark Tredinnick and watermelon by Ruth Ritchie.
After Kate’s panel and book signing we had a glass of wine with her and her publicist Kirsty (on the house, thanks to Text Publishing!). It was starting to get dark and colder and our parking meter was running out, so we left to have dinner at Bill and Toni’s. I think I’ll probably go back to hear Kate’s other panel tomorrow, and maybe check out some other things and not be so afraid of the whole Scene – after all, I’ll be part of it soon!