A Review, Newcastle Writers Festival / by Kian West

So I must admit, I only attended two events this year for the Newcastle Writers Festival. It's not that I didn't want to go to heaps more, but sometimes life gets in the way you know. 
I arrived early afternoon on the Sunday and quickly bumped into people I knew, I've got to say that the Civic precinct was a buzz with activity and made the whole event feel that little bit more exciting, speaking with friends that had attended several events over the past few days you could easily tell that the quality of the festival has definitely grown and everyone was really excited by what they had seen and heard so far. 

If you are reading this and had no idea there even was a Writers Festival in Newcastle over the weekend, well, there isn't much I can do for you except to say that you should be following Newcastle Live and Hunter Hunter to keep up-to-date with activities. That's how we do. 

I was mainly there for the Idea Bombing event, but keen to soak up some of the vibe I got in a little early and caught the "Future of Regional Australia" in the Civic Theatre with Host Paul Bevan (of ABC1233 fame) leading a conversation with Dennis Glover (politician), Caroline McMillen (Vice-Chancellor, University of Newcastle) and Marcus Westbury (Renew Newcastle/Creating Cities). In a lot of ways it was much the same as many talks I'd heard on the topic, several optimistic type people on stage, while a decidedly old crowd sitting in seats asking them to help their town or thinking about repeating old ideas. But in so many ways it was different, probably largely because there are a few good examples of different ideas working in the form of Renew Newcastle and with a huge construction taking place in the city centre for the University of Newcastle, maybe our beautiful city has an opportunity to really pivot out of the once coal/steel anchored heritage and become a truly engaged, Entrepreneurial creative city for the future. After all, Madness really is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. 

Quick catchup with Amy Lovat of Cool People Doing Cool things fame, and I was off around the corner to Watt Space Gallery for the reason I was attending, Idea Bombing Newcastle
"WHAT IS THE VALUE OF CULTURE TO NEWCASTLE?" - 4 brief speeches from the likes of: Siobhan Curran (thenovocastrianfiles), Bridgette Uren (Director, MRAG), Marcus Westbury, and Liz Burcham. As usual, some inspiring people throwing big ideas around, no more than Marcus dropping an bomb that went something like "there are plenty of ideas, but we need more doing!" This really resonates with me as someone that is always striving to take action, meetings and idea bombing is great, but when you walk away the real work needs to start. One thing I took real offence to was from Liz Burcham stating that the NCC couldn't provide something for everyone, but would focus on doing a small number of things well. Well, frankly, that's a disappointing comment from a council member. The rest of her speech connecting with councils role in culture and sometimes their participation really being to simply step back and allow it to happen, I totally agree, but I'd say connecting the dots between being something for everyone and stepping back could be done through steering the discourse of the city in such a way that is: event X is for this people, while event Y is for other people, and that NCC helps to provide a range of activities for everyone and sometimes that means things will happen in the city that you don't want to participate in e.g. a music festival, but we shouldn't stop these activities just because a relatively small amount of people have issue with noise, or arguably fun... 
But I digress. 
The brilliance of Idea Bombing Newcastle is that it throws together a theme and several bright minds into a room to stimulate discussion around what may become, it is just the beginning, but it has a great purpose, if nothing more it puts people in a room together that acknowledge that they want to be part of a change, they might not agree on what that change is, but that is kind-of the point. If we want to change, we also have to be willing to allow others to make change too. We may have been a city controlled by steel, but it isn't who we are, who we will be, it is up to us to make a change. 
The Newcastle Writers Festival is certainly part of that.