By Adara Enthaler
After a whole year of organising, planning, marketing, fundraising, and very long days, the Wollongong Writers Festival team is taking a huge, collective breath. We did it! The main weekend of the festival has come and gone, and although we’re all very proud of what we put together, we’re also left standing in the dust thinking: “is it over already?” It seems crazy that what took months and months to organise could happen so quickly, so in an effort to make sure I didn’t fall into a coma over the weekend and hallucinate the whole thing, let’s take a look back at what the team pulled off.
My first hint that this was real is that the festival has technically been happening all year. In earlier months, we had conversation/interview events with authors like Charlotte Wood, Shady Cosgrove and more, and as recently as August, we had the Program Launch at The Cabbage Tree Hotel. It was great to have these events staggered over the months leading up to last weekend; it kept us excited for what was to come.
But November! Oh dear, sweet November, what beauties you brought us. Earlier in the week of the festival was Enough Said’s Texas to the Gong Poetry Slam, and oh my freaking goodness was it a phenomenal evening. Between some of Wollongong’s best performance poets, we had live performances from American poets skyping us at 3am on Thanksgiving, giving us spectacular poetry. There were also live performances of drumming and dance/poetry, and every person who attended left feeling humbled and invigorated.
On the Friday night of the festival weekend, everyone gathered at Wollongong Art Gallery for the Festival Launch, and I really do mean everyone. Over 120 people poured themselves into the gallery to celebrate the opening of the festival weekend, watch some heartfelt speeches by WWF Director Chloe Higgins and other key members, and hear the announcement of the Short Story Prize winner. It was truly gratifying to see the literary community join together for the free wine—I mean to celebrate what we’ve achieved, and network—I mean catch up with other readers and writers.
Saturday and Sunday were exceptional. The festival has grown from previous years, and our audience has grown with it. It was lovely to see so many people come out to see the events that pertained to their interests, whether that be romance, South Asian Australian writers, comedy, poetry on mental health, or the kids program, at which we had a FREAKING WIGGLE! Did you hear me? We had Murray the original Wiggle reading to tiny tots at Wollongong Central, and my inner child jumped for joy.
I made sure to see nearly all of the poetry events over the festival, which meant I was there for the final events on Sunday afternoon. The sun had left us, but inside Jane’s Café there was delicious hot pizza and red wine, and we wound down the festival with heartfelt poetry readings from The Maddest Tea Party. I am so proud to be a part of the huge team that put the festival together in my hometown of Wollongong, and I’m eager to see where we’ll be able to take it next year.