Newcastle Writers Festival success

IF a picture really is worth a thousand words, then war photographer Gary Ramage had much to say with his images projected in the Civic Theatre, as part of Newcastle Writers Festival.

Mr Ramage was one of about 140 writers and vision creators who were in the city for the weekend, sharing their words and thoughts with record-breaking crowds. 

Gary Ramage has recently ventured into words as well with his book, The Shot

“It’s been a new experience,” Mr Ramage said of speaking about his work. “I’m not used to being in front of the lens.”

Mr Ramage was on the stage with diplomat and singer-songwriter Fred Smith, as they exchanged stories of life and death in Afghanistan. “It’s a powerful combination, images and songs,” Mr Smith said.

Actor and author Richard Roxburgh talking at the Civic Theatre. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Actor and author Richard Roxburgh talking at the Civic Theatre. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

There were powerful words from well-known names as well, ranging from Fight Like A Girl author Clementine Ford to former child solider, now lawyer and NSW Australian of the Year, Deng Adut. 

This was the fifth Newcastle Writers Festival, and the 85 events attracted about 9000 visitors. 

“That is extraordinary,” said festival director and founder Rosemarie Milsom. “The first year in 2013 there were 1800, last year 6500. I had hoped we could exceed that by 500 to 600 people. There’s no way I could have envisaged 9000.”

Ms Milsom believed the growth in the festival’s popularity was partly due to the program being “jam-packed with amazing writers”.

“I think the festival’s reputation has grown,” she said. “There’s momentum now.”  

"Fight Like a Girl" author Clementine Ford speaking at Newcastle Writers Festival. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

"Fight Like a Girl" author Clementine Ford speaking at Newcastle Writers Festival. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

The festival’s opening night with cartoonist and writer Michael Leunig attracted about 600, while a Saturday morning session with actor and now author Richard Roxburgh drew a crowd of almost 500. Kate Saint, one of 150 festival volunteers, said the film and TV star’s appearance brought “a flood of women” dashing for seats down the front.

This was Ms Saint’s second year as a festival volunteer, and she described the experience as “fabulous”.

“I haven’t been to one session that has bored me at all,” she said, adding her favourite author – “apart from him [Roxburgh]” – had been Sarah Wilson.  

Rosemarie Milsom said she believed the writers festival “brings out the best in Newcastle” and confirmed the 2018 event would be held between April 6 and 8.