As a part of our ongoing festival series, we are delighted to share Sam Twyford-Moore’s responses to our Q&A on the involvement of diverse audiences and writers in the Emerging Writers Festival, which kicks off in Melbourne 27 May and runs to 6 June.
The festival has also generously provided five (5) double passes to the Emerging Q&A session (2 June at 7.30pm, State Library of Victoria) and three (3) double passes to the Emerging Editors session (30 May at 9.00am, The Wheeler Centre), which is featuring our own Prose Editor, Lian Low.
For your chance to win these double passes, please email email@example.com with your name and telephone number, with the email subject “Emerging Writers Festival Passes”, specifying which session you would like to attend. Prizes will be allocated on a first in best dressed basis.
Thanks to those readers who have also provided suggestions as to other festivals Peril should make contact with – keep them coming team!
What does your festival see as the role of the arts in supporting (or otherwise) diverse representations of Australian culture?
Can I preface by saying I really wanted to answer these questions during programming, rather than after the fact. I massively respect the work that Peril does with these questions – that they are targeted at artistic and programming staff is so important. Regardless of whatever answers may come, the questions are suddenly in front of the programmers and you have to consider them seriously. It’s just such a terrific initiative. As an emerging Artistic Director, I’ve looked to the answers of other Directors to find a way forward in my programming. I was particularly taken with the idea of the You Are Here Postmortems that the You Are Here festival are putting on. I’m pretty inspired by the idea and keen to host something at the end of the year to get feedback in this way on all EWF programs.
But I don’t put this preface here to escape the attention of the questions – they shine purposeful light. In one sense I’m pretty lucky that the Emerging Writers’ Festival has some of these considerations built into it. I think the Emerging Writers’ Festival probably sits in a bit of a different space than the major festivals. Like the National Young Writers’ Festival before it has strong activist roots and was built to represent writers who were not otherwise being represented. In 2007, the festival had a writer from CALD background on every panel — an incredible step! As I interpret it, the original mission statement of the festival was to represent writers underrepresented by the mainstream. That could be taken to mean unpublished or new or young writers, and that’s part of it, but I think that it should also mean representing the historically marginalised groups you mention.
Can you give us a brief overview of the festival and what it offers Asian Australian audiences in terms of programming?
I hope that all the festival programming promotes diversity, and that speaks to Asian Australian audiences. I could list individual writers in the programming, but I think our partnerships with Asian-based organisations like the Bali Emerging Writer Festival and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. We were really delighted to see Asialink report last year that the best model for creative engagement in Asia was a two way exchange model, which I really believe in personally – it can’t just be us sending Australias to Asia to traipse about. We’re the second year into a two year exchange program with Bali Emerging Writers Festival, which has been really exciting and there’s more to come this year. The more we partner with these international festivals and the more diverse our reach becomes and our understanding. We will be hosting a panel as part of the National Writers’ Conference between the two writers who went on exchange.
We are particularly proud this year to partner with the Footscray Community Arts Centre this year to deliver the West Writers Group, a new initiative from both organisations, a group dedicated to representing the voices of writers from the Western Suburbs Melbourne. As part of that initiative we are hosting a performance event at FCAC, and also launching Right Now’s anthology, which is sure to be incredible production and a profound publication.
One of the great things about the Emerging Writers’ Festival over the years has been how it hasn’t programmed alone. As Artistic Director, I know we can’t speak for everyone and we need to reach out to other organisations for ideas, support and vision. Festivals are in a space where they are particularly suited to this mode of collaboration – we can celebrate other organisations within the festival, and support the amazing work they do year round.
I definitely reached out to Peril this year and two wonderful events mark the stamp of these discussions. Firstly Literature and Identity will be a thriving, vital conversation around diversity. And Emerging Editors, one of our most exciting new initiatives, will feature Lian Low on a panel very much inspired by Peril and it’s editorial direction.
Why do you think that these offerings would be of interest to Asian Australian audiences?
The Emerging Writers’ Festival is a festival for writers – our audience is 90% writers – so conversations around diversity in publishing, editing and the arts in general are really important. We need everyone to feed into these conversations and help shape them. It can’t just be one person setting this discussion, otherwise it’s a bit of a fraud. But I hope all of the festival appeals in its own strange way – there’s a great mix at EWF of industry conversations, and then lots of celebrations and parties, which are also programmed to represent diverse voices. I’m really looking forward to Amazing Babes and the Archer Magazine launch this year for this reason. Party time!
Do you actively seek representation from CALD or other historically marginalised groups in your programming committees/board/staff/
The festival has strong ties to Arts Access Victoria, and specifically the Deaf Arts Network, and we are very proud of our work with these organisations but there is a whole lot more to do and I think staffing and employment within the festival is the key area for us to focus on from 2015 on and how we can build effective diversity engagement planning. We’ve got some really exciting ideas that we’re working to bring to life that will hopefully speak to this meaningfully. I think Artistic Directors should really be reaching out to partners and building programming committees to represent diversity, but I think some programming should simply be handed over. That’s empowerment to me in that. I’m very keen to create employment opportunities at the festival in the future to lead this.
Have you ever solicited or received feedback from CALD or other historically marginalised groups in terms of your festival?
We haven’t sought direct feedback from specific audiences to my knowledge. With the Digital Writers’ Festival we have a lot of questions about accessibility and whether the festival is accessible enough and achieved the accessibility goals it set out for itself. Although we work to provide reporting to our partners, and I’m sure that within the CALD program in 2007 there were feedback processes. I’d love to chat with anyone out there who does this kind of direct feedback and how we could build it into our post festival surveys. I hope we’re presenting ourselves as really approachable to everyone, Again, I loved You Are Here’s feedback events – we’re definitely exploring hosting an event like this for year’s end.