Thursday, October 9, 2014


Over the October long weekend This Is Not Art (TINA) was held incorporated with the National Young Writers' Festival.
(or is it the other way around?)
I was lucky enough to have Friday off in addition to the holiday so managed to get to a whole range of events. My partner-in-crime was the lovely L with special guest star A.
We saw back to back sessions Friday afternoon.
The first was The Critic's Identity, featuring Madeleine Laing, Jane Howard, Matthew Tomich, and Dylan Burns. They were reviewers of a varying type of formats and genres. I found the dude that was the gamer and wrote about various games the most interesting as he had a quick turn around of product but could really influence how well these games were promoted, used, and purchased. He seemed most thoughtful of his experience. As someone who sometimes critiques or at least reviews a whole rage of genres here on my blog I thought it would be more useful, but not really. Unsure what I was expecting though.
The second was History Chicks featuring Bridget Lutherborrow, Niki Aken, and Davina Bell. Bridget is a Phd student writing about Lumberjills. Niki was one of the writers on the TV series, Anzac Girls. Davina writes for the Our Australian Girl series, a series for tweens on Australian women in history. This was an engaging panel of delightful women talking about amazing women. All of them use actual diaries from the era they are writing about and dig deep for interesting and unique stories. This can be harder than you would think, a lot of women who did amazing things during the wars were hesitant to speak up about what they did as they felt what the men were doing was more important. Niki spoke a lot about the nurses who worked overseas during the war, she said many came back up-skilled with additional jobs learnt, but couldn't use them back home. I know this session left me wanting more, this is a good thing.
Both of these sessions were held at the United Services Club, or as it was described for the festival, The Gun Club. What a venue! I was transfixed by this amazing old place where time had stood still. More Chesterfield lounges than one could count! Filled with guns, knives, swords, and other armor, The Gun Club was equal parts majestic and umm bizarre! But I just loved it, in an ironic way. (either that, or I have a gun loving right wing living inside of me I had no idea about). It also had a superb pool room, great views down Watt Street, an interesting feel, and cheap beer at the bar. I don't think it was a place where women were welcomed normally, which added to my interest in it. Every time I entered the place I found something else unique and fascinating, cementing my view of it as my favourite new place in Newcastle.

We then headed to my beloved Cambridge Hotel for a quiet drink before the next session.
We were very lucky to be involved in the Salon Talk with Benjamin Law called Pay the Writers. This started off with about 8-10 people sitting around in the newly refurbished side bar in luscious lounges listening to and talking with Ben about writing, payment for work, and the publishing field in general. I was thrilled that Ben sat next to me and his engaging take on the subject had us all entranced for the hour of the session. I have read Law and been a fan of his for some years, but had not really had the opportunity to hear him speak in this way. (I had seen him at People of letters at the SWF earlier in the year) He comes across a lot more solid and together than in his writing, which can be quite self-deprecating. His knowledge and generosity knew no bounds and he was honest and forthcoming with ideas, thoughts, and tips about gaining financially from writing and how to survive.

We only went to one session on Saturday and it was the highlight of the weekend! We were back at the Gun Club for My Favourite is Problematic featuring Rebecca Shaw, Patrick Lenton, Clementine Ford, Michelle Law, and Elizabeth Flux. The premise of this was each person wrote a short piece about something they love becoming problematic, but they still loved it anyway. Michelle spoke about her love of Amanda Bynes and her very out there demise online. This was a great start to a funny and fabulous session. Next up Patrick spoke about his love of the show Friends, despite it having many, many sections that he found difficult to stomach. Elizabeth delivered a deadpan delivery of the True Blood books, in all their fabulousness mixed with ridiculousness. The wonderful Rebecca (aka Brocklesnitch) gave a hilariously note perfect review of Roseanne Barr, from hero of a great show to a pompous bigot. Clem Ford ended the session with a spectacular rant about her favourite word, Cunt. This was an exceptionally funny session with an extraordinary group of writers, an hour seemed way too short.
Sidebar: we celebrated the end of the second day, with the most taste exploding meal at Casa de Loco! This is real Mexican food, and a must see place situated up in Pacific Street. We had the most divine Prawn tacos and Seasoned Chicken tacos that just popped in your mouth before melting into your taste buds. The salads they add to the meat heighten the taste of the taco overall. We had the potato and chorizo dish as sides, and Guacamole and corn chips as entree, and my already overworked taste buds were sent into sensory overdrive with the strawberry and mint Casa-made soda. The atmosphere is always good there, a little bit hipster, a little bit cool, and fabulous music playing too. As we were leaving Neil Young's Heart of Gold was playing...perfection!

Sunday was hot and we moved our schedule around to suit. Joined by the lovely A, we headed back to the old faithful Gun Club for Cultural Hierarchies in Music and featuring Faeza Lima, Madeleine Laing, and Jane Howard. This was about why rock or pop is favoured more than rap or hip hop. It was interesting in parts, thanks to Faeza a young Muslim rapper, who blends comedy and spoken word into her routine. I wanted to know more about her. The difference between the musical genres would have worked more if the panelists had a better musical knowledge in terms of what they were comparing the newer music to. But maybe that was the point. Topics such as categorising music, image, digital streaming were also delved into. And we did have to leave early to head to our next session.

We moved down to The Lock Up for Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction. This was a spur of the moment topic and seemed interesting, except the first two panelists spoke about what I thought were dated topics. Ideas for blogging using words as art and photography in a similar vein.  Interesting enough, but well, not that new and I hate to say it not the most engaging of speakers. To be honest I could have given both talks, about three years ago! We left early for afternoon tea.
Sidebar: I have noticed that quite a few of the panelists/presenters whilst talking about interesting topics, were not great speakers. This really deflects from what is happening and I guess not everyone who can write well, can articulate their thoughts off the paper.
Sidebar 2: We had the most amazing afternoon tea of Iced Coffee/Chocolate/Moccas at One Penny Black

Sidebar 3: The mall was buzzing as it normally is, but probably more so because of the festival, it would have been good for more shops to be open and cafes open later with quick food and drinks for those of us moving in between sessions.
We headed back to the Gun Club for a cool drink and our two final sessions. First up was Tinder Poetry Reading, which was where people had taken Tinder (dating site) conversations and turned them into poetry. This was not as funny or great as I thought it would be. There was no one scheduled to read and it was opened up to the audience to join in which was ummm interesting depending on the reader. It wasn't bad, but just not that well thought through.
Our final session was The World is Fukt, a look back at politics panel with Benjamin Law, Kylar Loussikian from The Australian, and Alice Workman from JJJ. This 90min session was intense and full of fabulous thoughts and opinions from the panelists. Although briefly hijacked by a ranting 'woman' early on, who's opinions made no sense and shook the room, this was an enjoyable session. Thing is, by this point we were exhausted, it was hot and we had been drinking, I may have dozed off in a few sections, but that was not from boredom, believe me. It felt great to be a full room of like minded souls who wished the world (and especially our own country) was a far better place than it was at present.
We piled out of the Gun Club, wishing it farewell for the last time, heads full of ideas, thoughts, and new information. The only thing to do was to head to Newcastle East institution, Scotties, and grab a burger and sit in the balmy spring evening and digest all we had observed over the past three days.


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