Tonight I found myself having a major craving for the National Young Writers Festival. It’s on again this year, starting Thursday, but I won’t be there.
I was thinking back to the first one I went to in 2001, only a few weeks after 9/11. I was the big thing I did in Australia before I headed back to Aotearoa. I was having a bit of an identity crisis at the time and the festival made me realise that this writing thing I was doing, well, it was an OK thing to do.
Hanging out on Hunter Street with performance poets from Adelaide as the city was overrun by ecstatic Newcastle Knights fans celebrating the Knight’s winning the NRL grand final was, like, rool special.
I don’t want to get too self-indulgent and nostalgic about it, but going to panels and workshops during the day and performance events at night for a long weekend in springtime Newcastle, well, it’s a perfect source for a whole lot of happy memories.
I went again in 2002 and 2003, but somehow by the time 2004 came around, I didn’t want to go. I’m not sure what it was, but I was 29 by then and I remember 30-something festival attendees joking about being over the hill.
But my three years’ experience at the festival has left me inspired (Thanks, the Australian taxpayer). And while I probably can’t recreate that magical experience of drinking alcoholic ginger beer on a balmy spring evening in the festival club on Auckland Street while ESL performed “A shadow the city cast”, I can at least take what I’ve learned and make my own magic, yo.
And it’s probably made me as one of the few New Zealanders who want to go on holiday to Newcastle.