The NT Writers’ Centre presents a major writers’ festival annually, alternating between WordStorm in Darwin and Eye of the Storm in Alice Springs or other regional centre.
In 2014 WordStorm festival is being held in Darwin. In 2015 Eye of the Storm will be held again in Alice Springs, showcasing writers and ideas unique to Australia’s Red Centre.
In 2013, hundreds of inspired readers and writers converged on the Olive Pink Gardens in Alice to immerse themselves in discussion topics including: sex, power, family, identity, social justice and creation stories. Among them was Ktima Heathcote from Tennant Creek.
Here is what she had to say:
They broke through digital frontiers. They expanded sexual horizons. They broadened minds. They pondered if Australia was a cultural desert. They dared to break the mould.
Some of the nation’s most outstanding authors, illustrators, spoken word performers and filmmakers reached for the moon (literally) when they converged on Alice Springs in April and exploded dramatically on to the literary scene as issues at the heart of Australian contemporary culture were explored.
Audiences heard tales of love and lunacy as the moon eclipsed at dawn, were regaled with saucy stories and lusty slips of the tongue, travelled the Highway of Lost Hearts through the desert at dusk, scribbled their way through the afternoon with graphic artists, got up close and personal with memoirists and met the writers who bear witness to violence, delve into the sexual politics of brothels, bedrooms and AFL locker rooms, embrace the digital world and debate the role of books in teaching morality to children.
Festival Director Kelly-lee Hickey and NT Writers’ Centre EO Panos Couros are the deadly duo who created an action-packed, diverse and sparkling literary program for the fourth incarnation of the biennial Eye of the Storm Festival.
I’ve been to a few writers’ festivals over the years, but this four-day event, which had the added benefit of showcasing the spectacular scenery of Central Australia and being perfectly timed with a lunar eclipse, was particularly illuminating.
Eye of the Storm, which mainly took place in Olive Pink Botanical Gardens with a lustful serving of dirty words at the Totem Theatre, included the next generation of writers and thinkers including Anna Krien, Kate Holden, Krissy Kneen, Ali Cobby Eckermann, playwright Mary Anne Butler, Marie Munkara, Jennifer Mills, poet Lionel Fogarty and Adam Hadley.
But not only did participants get to celebrate the power of the written word, there were also plenty of opportunities to listen to the perverse poetics of Brisbane-based Ghostboy and his cross-dressing instrumentalist Sir Lady Grantham, be blown away by the young powerhouse Laurie May, draw with Pat Grant and Katherine Battersby, tingle to the soul wrenching sounds of Steph Harrsion and Catherine Satour, talk to filmmakers Beck Cole and Danielle McLean as well as get lost on the highway to find Burning the Bitumen.
It was this galaxy of words, readings, workshops, panels, and cabaret performances served up to inspire a new generation of writers, readers and thinkers, let alone the extensive crowd that turned up, that impressed me the most, along with slick, seamless organisation and a side serving of open mic sessions.
One wag wryly commented at a mainly female attended panel called Hungry Eyes: Women Sex and Power that the festival was possibly preaching to the converted. True, but Kelly-lee and Panos have started a trend of attracting a younger, more diversified audience, especially with the musings of Digital Poet in Residence Katie Keys and the unveiling of The Disappearing, an innovative new app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices that explores poetry and place.
I pretty much attended everything I could at Eye of the Storm, except the final panel on Sunday afternoon, Bearing Witness, and the closing comedy debate, Is Australia a Cultural Desert?, as I had to travel the 500km back to Tenant Creek. But as the red-encrusted bitumen disappeared under the car wheels on the highway home a kaleidoscope of images and ideas floated through my mind and I knew that I’d been privileged to witness a genuine flowering of Australian contemporary literary culture in the desert.
Why not take a look back at our 2013 Eye of the Storm Writers Festival program of events and activities?