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HeadLand Writers Festival brings stories and poetry to South Coast

Albert McKnight12 May 2021
Collage of HeadLand Writers Festival authors

Clockwise from top left: HeadLand Writers Festival authors Beau Miles, Helena Fox, Scott Ludlum, Tanya Bretherton, Omar Musa, and Ailsa Wild with Simone Sheridan. Photos: Supplied.

Locally and nationally renowned writers will converge on the NSW South Coast this month for a weekend of talks, workshops and entertainment.

The first HeadLand Writers Festival will be held in Tathra from 14-16 May, and tickets are already selling fast.

The event’s creative director, Myoung Jae Yi, said the idea for the festival was born from how the Far South Coast is a relatively isolated community and not somewhere authors usually visit to talk about their books.

Due to the events of 2020, with bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the region has seemed to become even more isolated.

“I think its a really good opportunity to link back with the rest of the world,” said Mr Yi.

“We will bring the authors down to give the community and readers here something to talk about, gather around and connect with the rest of Australia.”

The festival, which has already attracted a huge amount of interest, is a celebration of local authors and what they have achieved on the national stage.


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Among the many writers with a local connection are Young Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe; Miles Franklin Award winner Sofie Laguna; historian Mark McKenna; former Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlum; The Fogging author Luke Horton; and bushwalker John Blay.

Also attending will be Canberra’s award-winning author Irma Gold, and Queanbeyan poet Omar Musa.

Mr Yi said Australian authors are important as they tell our stories.

For instance, Yuin man Gary Lonesborough has written a book called The Boy From the Mish, where he talks about what it is like to grow up in a coastal town being black and gay.

Also, former Candelo resident Ailsa Wild’s book, The Care Factor, is about the experience of frontline health worker Simone Sheridan during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important that local stories, such as Gary’s, and national stories, such as Ailsa’s, are heard and discussed all over the country because I think we all share a common thread and common experiences,” said Mr Yi.

“Hopefully by discussing the experiences we can address the more pressing issues.”

The festival will include talks and workshops, as well as spoken word and music performances spread across Tathra’s hall, hotel and wharf.

Many workshops and forums are for creators and readers who want to get a start in the writing industry.

The Olga Masters Short Story Award will be launched on 14 May, and the event’s key speakers are Ms Laguna and Mr Pascoe on 15 May.


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In addition, the local makers markets will be held at Tathra Hotel, depending on the weather.

Mr Yi said there has been a lot of early interest in the festival, with more than 1000 people predicted to visit the town. He is expecting tickets to sell out.

“I hope this festival will reconnect the Bega Valley to the rest of Australia,” he said. “I think it will reinvigorate and strengthen our love of reading and writing.”

With continued support from Create NSW, Mr Yi said he hopes the festival will run again next year.

For more information and tickets to HeadLand Writers Festival, click here.

The festival is presented by South East Arts, and supported by Create NSW.

Note: The above photo of Mr Ludlum is by Jean-Paul HorreĢ, and the photo of Ms Wild and Ms Sheridan is by Devika Bilimoria.

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