We are delighted to share this profile of the upcoming 2014 WordStorm Writers Festival which will be held in Darwin from May 29 to June 1, 2014, as a part of our ongoing festival series.
This “tempest of ideas” includes 70 writers, 52 events, 25 readings, 5 book launches, 9 special events and 14 panel sessions and is a biennial festival from the NT Writers’ Centre.
Here, Panos Couros, Executive Director of the NT Writers’ Centre shares his vision around engagement with diverse audiences and creatives as a part of this festival, which includes a dedicated program theme looking at the dialogue between Aboriginal Australia and non-Anglo migrant cultures.
What does your festival see as the role of the arts in supporting (or otherwise) diverse representations of Australian culture?
The role of the arts in any society is to reflect back how we live and who we are, and if this relationship is working properly, we will see in the arts as diverse a reflection as we see in society.
Can you give us a brief overview of the festival and what it offers Asian Australian audiences in terms of programming?
This year’s festival will focus on seven concurrent themes:
Adaptation – Looking at how a work transforms from one medium to another.
It’s Not Black and White – Is a strand that looks at the underprivileged (or sometimes non existent) dialogue between Aboriginal Australia and the non Anglo migrant cultures.
Digital Children – Looking at interactivity, trans-media and writing for children on electronic platforms, and how this affects young minds.
The Liquid Page – Looking at how the digital world has changed writing including crowd writing – the phenomenon of multiple writers/multiple editors working on the same piece of writing; the challenges of multimedia; trans-media writing for multiple platforms; hyper textual and robotic writing as well as other digital writing experiments.
Rock Words – Writing around contemporary rock music.
News Media Wars – A look at where journalism is going and its relationship with the rise of literary non-fiction writing (essays etc.) by independent publications.
Graphic Fantasy – What’s happening in the world of graphic novels.
The theme Its not Black and White is one where we are seeking to initiate a dialogue between people from non-Anglo communities and First Nation’s people. The relationships between Asian culture and First Nation Australia have existed before Anglo colonisation yet these relations are not explored in the broader context of our country’s cultural make up. We hope to explore this a little deeper. Specifically on these panels we have Annette Shun Wah (of Chinese decent), Chi Vu (Vietnamese), Omar Musa (Malaysian decent). We also will be speaking with human rights lawyer Jesswyn Yogaratnam. Marie Munkara is also involved in the festival, being of both Tiwi, Arnhem Land and Maccasin origin.
Why do you think that these offerings would be of interest to Asian Australian audiences?
There are deeper cultural issues that have not been explored in general Australian context that need to be addressed. Our non-Anglo relationships between cultures are very vibrant and healthy here in Darwin, but at a national level we see a ghettoization of many cultures. This does little to enhance a true sense of diversity and always maintains a colonial hold over the cultural landscape. These are important discussions for people of every cultural background to have.
Do you actively seek representation from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) or other historically marginalised groups in your programming committees/board/staff/volunteer teams?
This is what underpins my entire programming approach. I have been working in developing policy and practice for multicultural participation in the arts since the early 90’s. I’ve been an active member of Australia Council’s Multicultural Advisory Committee, as well as helped form the first cultural diversity in the arts policy to be created in this country in Queensland. I have been engaged in this dialogue for over 20 years. I hate the term CALD – it is another imposition from Anglo colonial mainstream designed to maintain our marginalisation and dilute true diversity.
Have you ever solicited or received feedback from CALD or other historically marginalised groups in terms of your festival?
I would not have been able to program such a festival without this.