Big Sky Festival 2020

In early October I had the delight and privilege of taking part in Geraldton’s Big Sky Readers and Writers Festival. 

Before the formal events the visiting writers were treated to an amazing adventure where we flew over the Abrolhos Islands in a tiny plane, before landing on Little Wallabie island for lunch and a snorkel at Turtle Beach. It was absolutely amazing and we even got to see whales breaching in the ocean beneath the plane!

Abrolhos Islands

The festival opened with a warm and friendly sundowner at Geraldton library, in which the writers introduced themselves and the winners of the short story festival were announced. (There was also some dancing in the kitchen, but that wasn’t part of the official proceedings!) Poet Charmaine Papertalk-Green coached me on the pronunciation of the names of the four groups of Southern Yamatji who are the Traditional Owners of country, and I got to catch up with my old writing buddy Natasha Lester. All this, and champagne! Who could ask for more?!

Opening Night at Geraldton Library

I attended a lovely workshop on relaxation and health with Mark Simpson, author of the really beautiful book Light Up the World: Inspiration for a New Humanity. It didn’t stop me eating chocolate but it was a good reminder to be more kind to myself even when I don’t make the best decisions, and inspired me to start meditating again. I also delivered a workshop on How Writers Earn Money attended by local authors and festival guests.

Stephen Kinnane delivered a thought-provoking keynote on the complex intersection of Aboriginal history and white colonial history which had me in tears at a few points. The reconstruction and rewriting of erased narratives is such an important project, but also often a very painful one for those involved. I especially loved his story of kayaking out in Sydney Harbour, during the 1988 ‘centennial celebrations’, draped in an Aboriginal flag, in protest against the offensive reenactment of the British invasion of Australia in 1788.

Top: Jo Jackson King, Josh Langley & Natasha Lester;
Bottom Left: Yuot Alaak & Jo Jackson King; Bottom left: Stephen Kinnane

I had the pleasure of chairing three wonderful events at the festival. Up-lit was a discussion of books that uplift and inspire featuring Jo Jackson King, Josh Langley, author of the very encouraging Find Your Creative Mojo, and historical romance author Natasha Lester, whose latest novel is The Paris Secret.

I also chaired a session on memoir with authors Jo Jackson King, who wrote the wonderful The Station at Austin Downs, and Yuot Alaak, whose memoir Father of the Lost Boys tells the incredible story of the exodus of 20,000 orphans from South Sudan during the civil war; as well as the literary brunch on Sunday in which Jo, Natasha and sci-fi author Matilda Scotney read from their work and answered questions from the audience.

On Saturday night I attended a gorgeous (if rather windy!) poetry dinner at the historic Greenough Museum with wonderful readings by Mark Simpson, Charmaine Papertalk-Green, Andy McLeod and punters braver than me who volunteered for the open mic sessions.

Big Sky Festival absolutely lived up to its mission of feeding the mind and nourishing the soul and I came away feeling uplifted, inspired and very grateful to have been a part of it.

Some of the wonderful team from the Geraldton library: Joanne, Annette & Holly

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