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In late October 2015, playwright and Magabala author of Becoming Kirrali Lewis, Jane Harrison attended the 12th annual Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Indonesia, where she was a featured writer and guest panelist in a number of the program's key events.
Known as Southeast Asia’s largest and most renowned cultural and literary event, the mission of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is to create a world class festival that celebrates extraordinary stories and amplifies brave voices; tackles global issues and big ideas.
Following her return from Ubud, Jane shared a few words that reflected on her experience:
After participating in a few writers’ festivals in the last few months Ubud was something different and quite incredible. Of course the heat made it something else but also the friendliness, the passion and devotion of the audiences - we met people who had attended 10-12 Ubud festivals and travelled there every year as their annual holiday.
The festival had a strong social justice focus, beyond the texts themselves, and hosted many inspirational speakers - Mpho Tutu (Rev Desmond Tutu’s daughter) and Teju Cole were a highlight for me. Writers love meeting fellow writers from all over the world, as I did on the four panels I was assigned to, but there was also a lot of mingling via the social events (and even on the shuttle bus).
It is always a great privilege to be an Aboriginal person in international events such as these and I began each of my sessions with an acknowledgement of country, of which many people came up to me afterwards and expressed their appreciation. Judging by the question time at the end of the panels, both the Australian and international audiences were very engaged in the themes, particularly the session I did on ‘the persistence of memory’, which seemed to strike a chord. I was also happy - for Magabala’s sake - that the copies of Becoming Kirrali Lewis seemed to be steadily selling in the bookshop. We were hosted with grace and great hospitality by Janet Deneefe and Janet spoke of the great relationship between the festival and Magabala and the black&write! prize. Thank you to Magabala for a mind-blowing opportunity.
With over 165 of the world’s leading writers, artists and thinkers taking part in 241 events across 50+ venues, and with audience attendance numbers at 30,620, 2015 was another landmark year for Ubud and the Writers & Readers Festival.