Sunday, August 3, 2014

Other Highlights of the Byron Writers Festival

We have always loved Missy Higgins music so we are excited to hear that she is speaking at the festival.  I hadn’t realised how young she still is and yet how mature she has always been about what she wanted to experience in life.  She was discovered very young when her sister enters her song to a radio competition and she wins.  She realised at a very young age that she needed life experience to be able to write and only signed with the record company Eleven, when they agreed to not turn her into a pop star but also let her take a break to go on a backpacking tour of Europe. She has won seven ARIA awards and in addition to her music she is also passionate about animal rights and the environment. 

I had never thought that song writers would also be part of a writers festival and realised as I listened to Missy Higgins speak that of course they too are artists trying to convey a message.  Higgins used her music to express her emotions.  Like many artists, she is an introvert and loves to lose herself in the music she plays and the words she sings.  She talks about her love for Broome, a place that I too connected to when I visited a long time ago.  She spent 6 months there and discusses how she found a connection to the landscape and how being away from everything helped her to write new material. 

Missy Higgins talked about an urgency she felt to create good art and once again we feel really inspired by this talk.  I often vacillate between my love for writing and photography.  Sitting here at the Byron Writers Festival I feel inspired to start writing more!

On Saturday, we also listened to Malcolm Fraser.  Malcolm Fraser was Australia’s 22nd Prime Minister under the Liberal Party but his views and ideas no longer support the ideologies of the party. 
He talks about the war in Iraq and discusses whether we really needed to be part of the invasion.  He talks about our close relationship with the Americans and asks if we needed to be in such a close alliance with them.  He criticises the current state of human rights in Australia and says we should be concerned that our freedoms are being whittled away.  We hear about the laws that now allow for secret detention of innocent people for whom the onus of proof has been reversed and feel amazed this is not more widely known. 

The section on Travellers’ Tales, were also conversations that really inspired me.  We had seen the movie Tracks recently, so the chance to hear Robyn Davidson talk about her perilous journey across 1,700 miles of hostile Australian desert to the sea, with only four camels and a dog for company was inspiring.  She talks about her experiences and mentions that she was not really on a conquest to conquer the environment but rather she just wanted to feel a part of it.  She also laughs when she says the same trip that she did back then could not be really recreated today.  For one, the current technology such as IPhones and GPS would render it a completely different experience.  You would be required to obtain permits, write a blog, obtain funding—the list goes on.   Robyn says, ” there is no such thing as too much freedom, only not enough courage.”  She remarks that our systems have made it impossible for us to get lost today.  She asks us to extend the boundaries of our life and mentions that our crazy consumer culture is manipulating us.  Lastly, she says she can only call a place home if she can escape it—something that completely resonates with me. 

There are many other authors that inspire me in some way.  Claire Dunn talks about her book, My Year Without Matches, once again a story of connection to the landscape. It is a story of how feeling burnt out by her job, she quits a comfortable life to spend a year in the bush without matches.  She discusses how her adventure unfolds over four seasons and how she deals with the issues of survival: shelter, water, fire and food.  We also enjoyed listening to Jono Lineen and his discussions on how his Himalayan trek healed his soul.  He undertook a 2700-kilometre trek through the Western and Central Himalayas, a journey that up to then had never been completed solo.  Over time he comes to realise that this trek was far more than a physical challenge.  It was all about coming to terms with the death of his younger brother, seven years earlier. 

There were many more authors and sessions but I can’t blog about them all.  We say goodbye to the Writers Festival and spend our last night with Chris and Christobel chatting over pizza and drinks.  We are thankful for their hospitality.  It has been lovely to share their home and enjoy their generosity while at the festival. 

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