The 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival began last Friday with an opening night party at the Melbourne Museum. Out with the staid format, this year’s Festival launched with poets, the amazing shOUT choir, rap and soul singers, and an address from Andrew W.K.
To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what to expect from Andrew W.K. His music is not my cup of tea and I wondered about his credentials as a motivational speaker (and whether that was MWF-worthy).
His message – simply ‘party hard’ – sounded a little flimsy…
“It’s very intense to be alive. I’ve been waiting for it to lighten up but it hasn’t… so let’s do it as a team. Partying.”
However, there was more to it – existential thoughts on the purpose of life combined with something meatier than ‘mindfulness’. You get glimpses of what he’s about in his Village Voice column. His enthusiasm was infectious and I came away weirdly converted… is he a cult leader?!
I’m saving the nitty-gritty of the sessions I attended for another post but there are a few lovely Festival details I want to share.
Firstly, Festival-goers sometimes need a little rest and time to read between excellent events. Thankfully the organisers have thought of everything and have provided lots of reading nooks.
Secondly, I saw the Scribe project on opening night and got talking to one of the scribes (about palliative care and biography writing, and the therapeutic value of being listened to). In fact, the scribe and I got along so well that it felt oddly serendipitous and we exchanged email addresses (the joy of festivals!).
When I arrived at my Saturday event a little early, I spied my scribe, so took the opportunity to record my thoughts about the Festival. Essentially, scribes record the experience of festival goers in what is a ‘democratic review’ of the event. It’s done on superb portable wooden desks and each response is catalogued and archived.
Again, watching others participate reminded me of how rare it is to have someone really, really listening hard to what you are saying, and the immense value of that listening. I think Scribe will be a memorable part of the Festival for all those that participated.
Lastly, some events are being held at a new venue this year – The Mission to Seafarers – and what an unexpected and fabulous place it is. Tucked behind the doors of the 1917 Arts & Crafts building is a chapel complete with a boat pulpit and sea-themed stained glass; a quiet, leafy courtyard; and a dome (didn’t get go into the dome but I’ll make it my mission this week!). Currently trying to find a reason to hold a function at Seafarers…