The 2016 Big Sky Readers & Writers Festival, held last weekend (20 to 22 May) hit new heights with events attracting approximately 1000 people.
The visiting writers and artists were unanimous in their praise of the Festival program and of Geraldton’s attractions.
Festival Director and Geraldton Library Manager Susan Smith said the special guests enjoyed an overnight stay on the Abrolhos before the events commenced.
“Nearly all of our guests were visiting the Islands for the first time and were amazed and inspired by their beauty and the environment. It was a great way to begin their Big Sky experience.
“Many of our visiting artists spent Friday working with local school groups before the Festival opening on Friday night.
“Geraldton Universities Centre was our base for the Festival, providing a superb space for our workshops, break-out sessions and keynote address.
Susan said there were many highlights across the Festival but these were her top picks:
• Former concert pianist and more recently Geraldton pilot David Tong performing Chopin at the opening celebration at the Library on Friday night for 100 guests.
• Much-loved Aussie actor and writer Steve Bisley’s entertaining keynote address peppered with stories of his student days at NIDA with Mel ‘Gibbo’ Gibson and Judy Davis as well as anecdotes about his acting career.
• The moving session at the WA Museum Geraldton when author Rod Jones spoke with curator Kate Naughtin about his personal experience of forced adoptions within the current exhibition ‘Without Consent’.
• Steve Bisley, short story writer Susan Midalia and photographer Daniel Craig discussing their art forms with the theme ‘Capturing the fleeting moments of our lives’.
• The Great Debate with the controversial subject: Facebook I hate you - attracting lots of laughs as a local team pitched their arguments against visitors Kyle Hughes Odgers, Loretta Hill and Grantlee Kieza.
• Seeing the amazing work of artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers who paints images on various media around the world – from entire buildings and huge walls to beautiful detailed illustrations.
• The Big Sky Feast at Salt Dish café where guests were served a sumptuous meal with accompanying wines while listening to anecdotes from Steve Bisley and Loretta Hill - a perfect way to escape the blustery weather.
• Sunday morning’s Q&A session when author Rosemary Sayer held her own with Steve Bisley, Rod Jones and poet Kevin Gillam.
• Poetry in the Pub at Bootenal Family Tavern, led by Kevin Gillam and Rosie Sitorus with many community members sharing their poems and enjoying live music.
• Eating a gorgeous lunch at Bentwood Olive Grove while listening to book readings and enjoying a surprise cello performance by Kevin Gillam.
Susan Smith said the 11th Big Sky Festival was only possible thanks to her dedicated staff, a team of wonderful volunteers, and funding and/or in-kind support from the City of Greater Geraldton, Department of Culture and the Arts and Regional Development and Royalties for Regions, writingWA, Lotterywest, Friends of the Geraldton Library, Geraldton Universities Centre, Ray White Geraldton, Eastman Poletti Sherwood Architects, Incite Security, Coop Bookshop Edith Cowan University Mt Lawley, Zeewyk Pearl Apartments, Ocean Centre Hotel, Water Corporation, Department of Fisheries and WA Museum Geraldton.
Dates for next year’s Big Sky Festival will be announced in coming months.