From August 9 – 11, the annual Bendigo Writers Festival will be featuring a glittering line-up of 150 household names, commentators, writers, entertainers, and many more, in more than 100 events across seven venues in the heart of Bendigo.
Ahead of the annual event, we’ve put together your festival guide; highlighting innovations in 2019 and key sessions across the weekend that you won’t want to miss!
If you are travelling by car, Bendigo is a comfortable two and a half hours north of Geelong, just around two hours north-west if you’re coming from Melbourne, and an easy 90 minutes if you’re coming from Ballarat. With an easy drive down the highway, Bendigo is perfect for rounding up the crew and making it a roadtrip. Just remember to prepare the pump-up playlist before you go.
It’s also pretty easy to catch the train to Bendigo – the V/Line express service is just over 90 minutes from Melbourne Southern Cross Station, and the Bendigo Railway Station is just a few minutes walk into the city centre. Just hit up the V/Line website find out information on departure times.
With a serious focus on food this year (thanks to Bendigo bidding to become a UNESCO City of Gastronomy – food, health and sustainability), the Friday night event will be a highlight for many, featuring popular SBS Food Safari presenter, Maeve O’Meara. As the founder of food-tour company Gourmet Safaris, O’Meara has spent the past two decades collecting culinary treasures and stories from all around the globe and is sure to bring a wealth of knowledge to the festival that will inspire foodies and writers alike. Join the host of SBS’s hugely successful Food Safari program for a conversation about the places, the people and the dishes that have delighted her in her quest for unique and exotic culinary cultures from 8pm at Ulumbarra Theatre.
Saturday’s highlight tackles the biggest question of them all – What Is Life?, with astrobiologist Paul Davies returning to Australia to deliver this keynote address which reveals how biology and quantum physics might just unlock the secrets of life on Earth. Introduced by La Trobe University Fellow Elizabeth Finkel, Paul Davies will take us into a field of science so new and fast-moving that it still lacks a name, a domain where computing, chemistry, quantum physics and nanotechnology meet. The power of information to explain life and to unify biology with physics heralds a new scientific revolution poised to transform technology and medicine, and to answer the age-old question of whether or not we are alone in the universe. If you’re looking to expand your thinking, this one all goes down at the Ulumbarra Theatre on Saturday night from 8pm.
It’s Sunday’s Closing Address this year that will have your heart swelling with hope and joy, making it the ‘must attend event’ for the entire weekend. Here, inspirational surgeon Munjed Al Muderis will talk about going back to Iraq, 18 years after he fled to Australia as a refugee, to perform the life-changing limb replacement surgery on people who had lost limbs in the war against ISIS. His extraordinary story is told in the book, Walking Free, and now, he has written about his return to Iraq, as a world-renowned limb replacement surgeon, in a new book, Going Back. This brilliant speaker and influential human rights advocate is a must-see so mark Sunday 11 August, 4.30pm in your diaries now.
Ensuring it’s all about the glitz and glamour, the team at the writers festival have made a few creative changes!
One exciting innovation has seen the festival make it very easy to take part in question time at the end of a session, with the interactive digital question-time platform “Slido”, which will be available during most sessions at Ulumbarra Theatre and the Capital Theatre. Using your phone, you can send your question to the session host at any time during the session, you can see what other people have asked and vote for questions you would most like to hear discussed. Slido will ensure that the questions most relevant to the audience will be heard, in a more efficient and effective manner. Anyone can use Slido: simply head to www.slido.com on your phone and use the code #bendigowritersfestival to access our event.
With three days packed of events, the team understands it can be hard on your joints and will have golf carts buzzing up and down between The Capital and Ulumbarra all day for you to hitch a lift. Pick up points will be clearly signed at the rear of The Capital, entrance to the Bendigo Bowls Club and turning circle at Ulumbarra so make sure you take note of these – you’re legs will thank you later!
If you’re looking for somewhere to relax on Friday and Saturday nights, the Festival Club in the bar at the Bendigo Bowls Club will be open all afternoon and into the night, with crime readings at 9.30pm on Friday too. We can definitely raise a glass to that.
TO PASS OR NOT TO PASS??
If you’re heading to Bendigo for the entire weekend, you might as well go the whole hog with a Three-Day Festival Pass.
This gives you the option to attend those must-see sessions, and then just browse during the day, trying out sessions on a whim. It makes it very easy and the choice is so varied, there’s always something on offer. Even if a session in a small venue fills up to capacity, it’s easy to find something else in a nearby venue.
Another perk is that a pass is pretty good value too, with the cost much lower than most festivals. Even adding in one or two extra events – such as a Quick Pick in Strategem Studio or one of the evening events in Ulumbarra – a day or three at the Festival is cheap as chips!
Inspiration can come in many forms, but there’s no greater way than hearing from those you idolise – and the Bendigo Writers Festival is full of people who fit the mould perfectly. For young and old, for writers and readers, this festival will provide a friendly, exuberant, tempting program.
You can view the full program online at bendigowritersfestival.com.au.