Canberra's Writers' Festival Heads Into Its Third Year

With Noted Festival kicking off for its third year yesterday, we sat down with Digital Producer Marta Skrabacz and Artistic Director Lucy Nelson to hear a bit about what to expect from this year's program.

writers festival

What kind of festival is Noted, and what sets it apart?

Marta Skrabacz: Noted is proudly independent and it’s meant to be for anybody who loves to write. There are traditional spaces set-up such as workshops, panels and Q&A sessions but then again, there’s room made for experimental notions like literary bar crawls, a sculpture project using unsold books and a language workshop which teaches participants elementary phrases in foreign languages.

It’s gotten support from other like-minded organisations and we’ve been able to host partnered events, such as Girls Write Up (a gender-inclusive, daylong wordfest for teens that teaches empowerment through writing and sharing stories) with The Stella Prize, Art: What is it good for? in partnership with the ACT Writers Centre and The AIDS Action Council of the ACT presents Gay Sex is Fun. All of these showcase Noted as inclusive, innovative and supportive of emerging artists. I hope it shows that we’re very proud of the events and artists involved this year.

Tell us a bit about your role at the festival – how did you get involved?

MS: I’m Noted’s Digital Producer and have been looking after the digital events stream which includes The Notedbook, our online storyhub. I have been wanting to get involved in Australian arts festivals since last year, and it was probably serendipity when I spotted Noted’s callout for producers. I initially applied for the live producer role and Lucy (Nelson), our artistic director, asked whether I’d still be interested in working for the festival but in a digital capacity. Given I’m based in Melbourne, that suggestion absolutely made sense. Initially I took my cues from Digital Writers Festival and Noted’s 2016 digital stream, and tried my best to distinguish it from just lining up interactive video panels. There’s so much room for experimentation in digital: we shouldn’t be limited by the expectation that they’re merely aural or video versions of live events.

Canberra hadn’t hosted a writers’ festival in five years until Noted started back in 2015. What prompted its inception and how have things changed since then?

Lucy Nelson: A group of local writers and creatives simply asked the question: why should we travel interstate to attend a writers’ festival when there is a wealth of literary talent right here in our hometown? Part of the impetus was also to showcase Canberra’s diverse and thriving indie arts and publishing scene, which is often overlooked. Since then the program has grown bigger and better and our audience is becoming larger and more diverse. Our baby’s growing up.

What events are you excited to present this year?

MS: Personally I’m excited about Hey Rhys, a project by Tegan Webb who is running the next instalment of the project launched at last year’s Digital Writers Festival. I’ve compared it to stories like House of Leaves or S. because of its nonlinear narrative and multitude of layers, and really letting the audience member drive their interaction with the content. But there are also HEAPS of events to get excited about this year: Mail Club run by Alex Neill, where you can write (real!) letters, and Writers Uncorked (hosted by Kaaron Warren) where you can gawk at writers and eavesdrop on a conversation influenced by Dutch courage. In a more formal setting, there’s a Lectures at the Library series which has writers talking about digital literary cities, about the role of hysteria in feminism, and how language and law have been used to moderated gay men. I would also like to exclaim loudly about us co-hosting Mixtape Memoirs with The Lifted Brow. So glad that Canberra gets its own edition! There’s not going to be enough space for me to yammer on about everything Noted has planned for this week, so I’d recommend everybody take a gander at our program.

For those who can’t get to Canberra, what options are there for participating in the festival?

MS: Get down with digital is my recommendation for anybody who wants to participate but can’t make it down (or up) to Canberra. There’s about five interactive events which involve activities such as story-building and telling, confronting grief with strangers, and reflecting on one’s creative process and the influence of place in creative writing. Other than that, Noted will release a podcast episode and some events will be recorded and make available for the digisphere. Lastly, take a look through The Notedbook, especially the Check Yourself column bestowing fantastic advice for creatives. There’s an abundance of talent and inspiration throughout the festival, so get involved.

writers festival

Noted Festival runs until the 7th of May. Check out the program here (including events from our very own Building Blocs Feature Editor, Katerina Bryant). 

Photographs by 'Dream Pieces'
Illustrations by Shauna O'Meara
Writers Bloc Community's picture

Writers Bloc Community

The Writers Bloc is a community for writers. We provide free anonymous workshopping, advice, events, opportunities, and a paid publishing platform.