The charming seaside village of Tathra on the NSW Far South Coast is ready to open a new chapter when it hosts the inaugural Headland Writers Festival this weekend, 14-16 May. Canberra Weekly chatted with two of the festival organisers, Myoung Jae Yi of Candelo Books at Bega and Cliff Wallis of the Tathra Hotel to find out more.
With less than a week until the Headland Writers Festival opens, several events are already sold out, including the opening night event on Friday, a session with keynote speaker Bruce Pascoe, writing workshop with Julia Janson, poetry night and ‘Tales of the Sea’ on Saturday, and the musical and lyrical afternoon on Sunday.
Cliff says the idea of the festival evolved from the popular writers’ nights the hotel has hosted in recent years.
“I take great delight in telling people we had a bigger crowd at a writers’ night than we had at the State of Origin just a week later,” Cliff says, “because domestic violence always increases when there’s a big sporting event.” But no such correlation exists between violence and writers’ events.
Initially the festival had been planned for last year, but like so many events, was put on hold due to Covid restrictions. In the interim, organisers successfully bid for NSW Government Restart grant funding, which they’ve put to good use, attracting a host of renowned authors, such as Sophie Laguna, whose mum lives in Tathra, Bruce Pascoe from just over the border in Mallacoota, and Ailsa Wild and Luke Horton, both of whom grew up in Candelo.
In fact, Myoung explained one of the key criteria for issuing invitations to authors was that they were local or they or their material had strong links to the area.
Held across three main venues – the Tathra Hotel, Hall and Wharf – and several smaller sites, the festival includes writer talks, several hosted by locally-based ABC journalist Linda Mottram, industry forums, writers’ workshops on podcasting and getting published, poetry and live music events.
Other writers and well-known names on the program include Paul West of River Cottage fame, Helena Fox, Irma Gold, Gabbie Stroud, Mark McKenna, Gary Lonesborough, Tanya Bretherton, Scott Ludlam, Geoff Page, Dr Annie Werner, Mary Cunnane, John Blay and more.
Organisers anticipate around 1,000 people, many from the NSW South Coast region, will be in Tathra for the event, and are grateful for the support of South East Arts in bringing the festival to fruition.
Cliff and Myoung believe it’s the first time a writers’ festival has been held on the NSW South Coast and say the response from the local community has been one of enthusiasm and pride.
“It’s a really positive thing for the local community to look forward to,” Myoung said.
Organisers are keen to see the festival become an annual winter event on Tathra’s calendar.
“We’ll aim to host it in May again next year; we just need to check dates as some writers we wanted to invite to our event were already committed to a writers’ festival in Margaret River,” he said.
Some events are free, but all require bookings. For more information and tickets, visit headlandfestival.com.au