Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
Roses at the Cottage

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Melbourne - the UNESCO City of Literature

In August 2008 Melbourne became the second City of Literature to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. I must admit I don't think I ever thought about what UNESCO really stood for (well UN yes but the rest?!). So here it is: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Interestingly the other cities of literature are Edinburgh, Dublin, Idaho, Reykjavik and Norwich. Some of the criteria should make us proud - and yet most of us wouldn't even be aware of it! It states that 'The city must provide an urban environment in which literature, drama and/or poetry play an integral role; and have experience in hosting literary events and festivals aiming at promoting domestic and foreign literature'.

 I don't know what it is about the word 'literature' but it seems to intimidate some when it needn't. It's the same with the annual Melbourne Writer's Festival at Federation Square which is currently in full swing. It's always held in the last 2 weeks in August (so why not plan a stay at the cottage next year!). I'm always surprised by friends of mine who read more than I do but when there is an opportunity to hear visiting authors they don't go along! I suspect they have the impression that as they aren't a writer 'it's not for them' or that authors are not articulate (some are and some aren't).
Speakers looking pretty relaxed at BMW Edge, Federation Square (Flikr)

Reading was never my first joy - in many ways I wish it had been - my parents were doers not readers per se - although they did read - particularly as they aged (like me!) So I came to reading through a circuitous route by attending Writer's Festivals and 'liking' (not Facebook liking!) an author and then buying their book. Gradually over the years I've become more selective and observant of  authors attending to promote their books (their wares!). I'd encourage you to dip your toe in the water. 
Actor Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral) talking with Michael Cathcart (Radio National) about his book on Dickens (Flikr)

A first for the Festival this year was an influx of editors, writers and cartoonists from The New Yorker who came to town. Each of their sessions was a sellout. They bought a new energy to the Festival and with so much success I hope initiatives like this will continue.
Roz Chast from The New Yorker creating her famed cartoons right here in Melbourne (Flikr)

This year Radio National randomly interviewed me about my thoughts on the Festival (a little hard as it was on day one!) I'm always mindful that so many who attend are 'of a certain age' - how depressing for the authors to look into the audience at a lot of aging 'Book Group groupies' (not me!). Hopefully the ambitious schools programme which runs mid week might ensure that even a small proportion of the doers become readers. 

So don't be intimidated! Explore and expand your souls! You never know what you'll learn! And make it easy by staying at the Cottage!

Bowen Cottage client comment this week: A lovely welcoming home with everything you could ask for and more. The other rave reviews are all dead accurate.

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