Heroines Festival 2018 Round-up
2018 was our first Heroines Festival, but it definitely won’t be our last! Festival goers described it as a fantastic gathering of hearts and minds”; others said while it had a “very relaxed atmosphere” it was full of “highly engaging writers/poets/film makers”, and was “stimulating and very enjoyable”, “wonderfully informative and entertaining” and “a celebration of the power and passion of literature, poetry and film art”.
The first event in the festival happened on the 5th September with the launch of Heroines: An anthology of short prose and fiction, which was co-hosted by the South Coast Writers Centre as part of their Word Salad program at the Philanthropy Tribe Cafe. With a focus on reimagining the heroines of legend, fairytale, and mythology, in ways that are both resonant and startlingly new, The Heroines Anthology is a challenging and soulful collection of short fiction and poetry by 24 women writers that interrogates the traditional power dynamics of classic literature, while touching on the deeper questions of women’s true nature. The free launch was a sell out event.
This was an entrée to the main event which was our festival day held at Thirroul Community Centre’s Excelsior Hall on September 8th. Our first panel of the day, HEARING OUR GRANDMOTHER’S VOICES, began with historical fiction authors Kate Forsyth and Anna Westbrook speaking with Judi Morison from the South Coast Writers Centre about the historical heroines at the heart of their novels and what had inspired them to honour their story. They were worlds apart; with Anna's novel being set in Newtown in the 1940's, and Kate's most recent in England in the 1890's. Anna was motivated to honour the personhood of the female murder victim in her tale, and Kate was following her long-held love of fairy tales. They spoke about the art of crafting, how their novels challenged ideas about historical narratives and ‘truth’, the complexity of crafting an authentic historical voice, and the importance of being fully immersed in your research world. Kate also treated the audience to a show of the lavish Pre-Raphaelite art that inspired her novel. Guests described the panel as “riveting”.
Our second panel REMEMBER, OR IF LOST, INVENT featured authors Catherine McKinnon and Pamela Hart. Hayley Scrivenor, the director of Wollongong Writers Festival skilfully guided a fascinating conversation on the topic of inventing lost histories and new worlds for women. Catherine and Pamela both write in the historical as well as the speculative genre, and they spoke about the real times and places that inspired their work, and their call to tell the stories of many strong and inspiring heroines who have been ignored by history and literature. They covered the notion of lost histories and the role of research, salvaging and invention in their works. This panel was a true meeting of minds and captured by a festival-goer’s comment that we featured “inspiring, entertaining, thought-provoking, talented women”.
The third panel of the day, FUTURE PERFECT featured debut author Margaret Morgan with Heroines festival director, Sarah Nicholson. Margaret began by reading a harrowing passage from her speculative novel, The Second Cure. Our festival guests loved Margaret. They described her as “incredible” and particularly were blown away by her talk about the horizontal gender power found in the society of our close cousins, the bonobos; and insight she has drawn from her knowledge of biology and neuroscience. Discussing the possibility of matriarchal societies, Margaret remarked that, “We can’t rerun history to try it again with women in charge, so we don’t know how it would work for sure.” We were very sad to have lost Claire Corbett, who was scheduled to speak on the panel, to the demons of NSW Transport, but we hope to have her back next year!
Our final panel RESISTANCE AND REBELLION featured Zanny Begg, Jasmin Tarasin, and Heidi Lee Douglas. Sukhmani Khorana from the University of Wollongong guided a discussion between these screen-based storytellers about what it's like to be a female filmmaker in Australia today. The audience got a peak into their work: a documentary on the Australian suffragettes, Utopia Girls; short film, Little Lamb; and art documentary on the murder of Juanita Nielsen, The Beehive. They discussed how important onscreen women’s stories are to our culture, particularly stories that tell the historical tales of the women who resisted, rebelled and drove social change.
We ended the day with ENOUGH SAID POETRY SLAM presenting SPOKEN WORD WOMEN. Enough Said Poetry Slam's Bella Luna sparkled as our MC. The session was an Open Mic and we were particularly honoured to have lots of emerging young women poets read! There were featured readings from the festival's anthology, from guest authors Lauren Elise Daniels, and Suzanne Burdon, and Enough Said programmed a special special guest reading for us by local emerging poet Zoe Ridgeway.
We had 150 women attend the festival day and many of them responded with glowing feedback. A big thank you goes out to all of our event partners, friends, and volunteers who together made the Heroines Festival happen. We had a fantastic time and are already working on next year’s festival!
You can view our gallery of photos from the festival here.