Over 800 people swapped the beach for books and headed down to Umina across the June Long Weekend for the inaugural Words on the Waves Writers Festival.
The festival, which was held in various venues across the Peninsula from June 11 to 14, featured a line-up of authors, workshops, conversations, and a kids program.
From a night at the Naughty Noodle Fun Haus and Cinema Paradiso, to a day of debates at Ocean Beach Surf Club and a literary cruise on Brisbane Water, the festival was met with rave reviews from guests.
Event organiser, Benny Agius, said the three-day festival couldn’t have gone any better.
“This was truly amazing given it was a pilot event and clearly the path is looking positive for future festivals,” Agius said.
“For 2022, we will continue to grow, connecting with more writers, artists and community groups, as well as developing an ever-growing audience from the Coast and beyond.
“We really hope we can get some funding from both Council and government to bring more events to the Coast throughout the year and to ensure that we bring an even bigger and brighter festival in 2022.
Author and speaker at the festival, Nikki Gemmell, said: “This is the most beautiful writers festival in the world.”
Program Director, Angela Bennetts, said it was rewarding to see how engaged audiences were with the authors.
“From the first session, which had us all in tears as Ronni Kahn shared her inspirational life story; to the beautiful ukulele ballad shared by Indigenous novelist and songwriter Nardi Simpson …there were so many moments when we were genuinely moved by the stories told and ideas shared by the talented and generous authors,” Bennetts said.
“[There were] moments of belly laughter thanks to Richard Fidler’s rollicking history of Prague and Candice Fox’s cheeky tales of crime writing alongside fiction powerhouse James Patterson.
The kids’ program, held on June 11, enabled primary school students the opportunity to meet authors and participate in writing and illustration workshops.
Children’s Program Director, Jacqui Barton, said the Committee would like to expand the children’s program to two days next year.
“The highlight was seeing the smiling faces of more than 400 students gathered with collective laughter listening to talented authors and illustrators,” Barton said.
“Launching the event was the esteemed Australian laureate Ursula Dubosarski talking about the power of story.
“Dub Leffler and Kirli Saunders [then] brought Australian indigenous storytelling to the forefront as well as Susanne Gervay, Deb Abela and Oliver Phommavanh [who] shared stories, laughter and joy.
“Both the kids and the teachers just loved it!”
Event organisers are now seeking feedback from attendees as they look ahead to next year’s festival.