Ten years on since Melbourne became just the second city in the world to be named a City of Literature, the creative art remains as strong as ever across the breadth of Victoria. From an annual Shakespeare themed festival, a booktown, and regional writers events, Regional Victoria has a rich literary history to enrich, inspire and entertain logophiles.
At the annual Shakespeare on the river festival – hopeless romantics can indulge their passion for the famous playwrite in Stratford, located 250 kilometres east of Melbourne. The Stratford on Avon Shakespeare Festival, held from Saturday 21 April to Sunday 6 May, includes 20 different events to show case community, professional theatre and the arts scene. Established in 1991, the festival provides lovers of the Bard a journey back in time with a series of culturally engaging workshops, performances and events. Along with a production of The Tempest, festival goers are encouraged to adorn the fancy dress for the popular long-standing tradition Bard Banquet, which sees revellers embrace a seafaring theme to eat, drink and be merry. The 16-day festival in the Gippsland Region will conclude with the annual Medieval Faire and Market Day.
Though visitors fossicking for their fortune may have dwindled in recent years, there is still gold to be found in the charming Goldfields village of Clunes in the form of the annual Clunes Booktown Festival from 5-6 May 2018. Internationally recognised as a Booktown, Clunes attracts 18,000 people two-hours north-west of Melbourne to Australia’s largest bookshop, with the whole main street given over to bookstores. Along with author talks and panel discussions, festival-goers can discover the largest collection of rare, out-of-print and collectible books in Australia, explore heritage buildings, enjoy live music while sampling local food and wine, watch street performers and immerse themselves in stories. In 2018, Clunes will also be on show to the world when the town hosts 40 international delegates for the first International Organisation of Booktowns Conference in the Southern Hemisphere.
A host of annual writers’ festivals across regional Victoria bring together the world’s best storytellers in intimate workshops, lectures and discussion forms.
The Mildura Writers Festival (19-22 July) has evolved to be among the finest literary events in the country. Inspired by its beginnings in Stefano de Pieri’s cellar restaurant, the festival features late night discussions around wood fires, while showcasing the local and regional gourmet food and wine in the heath of the Victorian winter. With such a reputation the Mildura Writers’ Festival can attract the best Australian writers including Nobel Laureates such as JM Coetzee, renowned authors such as David Malouf and Les Murray and international stars such as Clive James.
The acclaimed Bendigo Writers Festival (10-12 August) has reinforced the Goldfields’ reputation as the epicentre of regional Victorian literature. The annual three-day festival gathers more than 100 speakers for discussions about every kind of writing under the sun for young and old. Fans of the hardback can learn the age-old craft of bookbinding, under the guidance of an experienced bookbinder with a one-day workshop held throughout the year. The next chapter in the city’s colourful history will be written on September 1 when Bendigo becomes the second Victorian regional centre to be transformed by White Night. The event will weave a spell over the city centre, transforming the impossible into the possible through installation, lighting, exhibitions, street performances, film, music, dance and interactive events.
Non-fiction fans can rejoice with Australia’s only writing festival dedicated to the truth. The annual Word for Word – National Non-Fiction Festival (16-18 November) is held in the Victorian coastal city of Geelong. The literary event showcases non-fiction writing in all its many facets and forms with world-renowned writers, dynamic panel discussions and “in conversation” sessions.
The cooler winter months is the perfect time for Victorian bookworms to escape the city, to curl up and get lost in a good book.
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