Take a Judge, a Queen and a scribbling line of writers and what do you get? Corrugated Lines: A Festival of Words.
by Kerry Tolson @kerrytolson.com
Even as I write this, I’m still pinching myself on the arm and telling myself “it really did happen”. I’ve got the photos to prove it. The programme is sitting on my desk - my name is right there in it. I've even got the drinks bill reminding me I spent nineteen dollars on a cocktail – twice! and yet I’m waiting to wake up and discover it was all a dream -
a beautiful, wonderful, exciting dream.
It was an absolute honour and privilege to be invited to the 2016 Corrugated Lines: A Festival of Words – Broome’s readers and writers festival, now in its fifth year.
And I felt so incredibly blessed and humbled to share the programme listing with esteemed and inspiring writers such as Zohl de’ Ishtar, Mari Lourey, Emilie Collyer, Andrew Burke, Dr. Peter Stride, Jacqueline Wright, Juliet Middleton, Antoine Bloemen and the incredible Pat Lowe, among many others.
Infused with stories from the Kimberley and across Western Australia at its heart, to have my little book about Nepal included in this festival was indeed a privilege.
The festival kicked off its celebrations with a small meet and greet – a preface - of the writers and festival organisers in the beautiful 1910 heritage listed building now occupied by Matsos (a micro-brewery and ‘Broome treasure’), then it was off to the gorgeous Broome Library for the official opening - “The Prologue”.
As champagne corks popped and excitement sparkled, it was standing room only in the packed library as lovers of all things wordy mingled and chatted.
The ceremony began with a welcomed to the Yawuru country by the traditional owners, followed by a wonderful linguistics lesson in how to say hello, thank you and enjoy in the Yawuru language.
Then the authors and festival guests were introduced, their vitae read out.
I was in awe hearing who was attending the festival, excited with anticipation at the upcoming sessions, a little star-stuck to be surrounded by such creative talent and downright terrified that I was appearing on the same program as these incredible wordsmiths.
Every now and then I could feel a small bubbling of fear rise up inside of me; was I going to wake up and have someone tap me on the shoulder and ever so politely say ‘er, excuse me, you shouldn’t be here, you’re a fake.’
Not that any of these wonderful writers, editors, publishers, organisers, lovers of books and words and proses and all things narrative even gave a hint of thinking such thoughts – from the very first handshake, smile and twinkle in the eyes, everyone associated with Corrugated Lines is the embodiment of pure friendliness, and inclusiveness.
Saturday morning dawned brilliantly bright and I couldn't wait to dive into the festival's 'chapters.'
My first ‘author’ appearance was at the Broome Courthouse Markets on the Corrugated Lines and Backroom Press market stall. I was sharing my allocated time with poet and novelist, Andrew Burke whose session was on the Sunday – “Tricks of the Trade: Poetry with Andrew Burke”.
We had a very busy hour together, chatting with the many keen readers and festival goers who popped into the stall as well as a number of writers who dropped by in readiness for their timeslots.
Before I knew it, the hour had zipped past in a blur of pages and laughter and it was time for me dash off for my session which was happening at the Broome Library, but not before meeting the absolutely fascinating and larger-than-life Zohl de' Ishtar (a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and indigenous advocate) and journalist/author Jacqueline Wright (whose book – Red Dirt Talking - I am devouring at this moment with great raptures – what a brilliant read!)
I was so enthralled to meet both Zohl and Jacqueline, barely able to contain my excitement of being in the presence of such incredible women, I became lost for words. . . which was probably a good thing as I've been told I can talk the leg of a table, so their ears were saved. But it truly was a great pleasure to meet these very talented and inspirational writers.
I was over the moon with the turnout at my session (I had half expected there to be only three people – me, Mal and the lovely facilitator . . . and maybe a passer-by) so you can imagine my delight and sheer terror, when the room filled up with people wanting to hear all about how not to travel through Nepal and the ‘minefields of writing about family and far-flung destinations’ – the actual title and outline of my chat.
As more and more people took their seats, the little sprays of Rescue Remedy became more frequent – for a split second I was terrified it would be a repeat of the Probus chat and I’d be searching for words whilst wrestling with the mic.
But there was no need to worry as the moment the facilitator - the incredibly effervescent Sally introduced me, I felt the aura of welcoming and friendliness from the ethos of Broome and became relaxed as the laughter rippled through the room as my talk went on.
Like I said once I get going, I can chatter away and as the words flowed my talk went a little over time and all too soon the session was finished and it was down to some delightful one-on-one chats with festival goers as I scribbled paragraphs of best wishes across the title pages in my book signings (again fear bubbled up as I worried about getting names wrong, making spelling mistakes, or not fitting it all on the actual page), then I did a quick dash to Short Street Gallery where the beautiful works of Helicopter Tjungarrayi were the back drop to Zohl de’ Ishtar and Jacqueline Wright's session – “Red dirt, White culture and black women’s law” - a discussion on intercultural relationships.
The gallery was absolutely packed with barely room to open a book but oh-my the discussion was invigorating and thought provoking and sadly over way too quickly.
It was fascinating to hear about the writing complexities Jacqueline faced as a white woman with writing about indigenous communities and culture even though the community and story plot were entirely fictitious. And Zohl is a fascinating woman, living with a remote indigenous community for the past seventeen years and as their 'Culture Woman' has assisted the elders in establishing the Kapululangu Women's Law and Culture Centre one of the most remote women's centres in Australia. As she talked about the sense of connection to country, it resonated the feelings I feel in always wanting to discover what is out there and be connected to something that is all encompassing.
It was a wonderful session told around a fire under a blanket of Kimberley stars and swirls of red dust brushing our feet.
I was super keen to continue on to the next session - the Word of Mouth - a throw of prose, poetry, monologue and rap - anything that wanted to jump from the page onto the stage, but there was a birthday dinner for a friend happening, so I closed the 'book' for the evening and popped the bubbly cork for more celebration.
I'm told the event rocked on into the wee hours of the morn. So did ours.
The next morning I was keen to delve into the chapters again, and after an early morning stroll onto the mudflats of Roebuck Bay in search of the Flying Boat Wrecks, which can only be seen at low tide. . . I couldn't even find a tip, let alone a rusty flap. . .
. . . I headed for the University of Notre Dame library armed with a red pen and floaty pants for the "Love your red pen, love your tush" mini-workshop.
Combining editing with yoga and given by the wonderfully flexible Juliet Middleton, this was an hour long session of strike outs, inserts, ups-and-downs-shake-it-all-about with a couple of chockie biscuits thrown in, but as the hour drew to a close, we of the 'square-bumitis' brigade were enjoying it so much we begged for more and the session was stretched out to two hours.
The only down side about this session was that it started at the very same time as the Broome's Biggest Book Club, - being discussed was the insightful Calypso Summer by Jared Thomas - a book I had thoroughly enjoyed reading.
Just as I was leaving the library I noticed the intricate artworks that were adorning the walls and upon mentioning it to the librarian, Kate, was informed that many
I encourage anyone visiting Broome to take the time to view this collection and feel infused by the intensity of the connection, understanding and rich history the traditional owners tell from this incredible land.
Hunger-pains were hinting by time I dragged myself away from the ancient dreaming of the Kimberley, and with most of the morning sessions having come
Proclaimed as the Queen of the Kimberley, Mary G played her larger than life persona as she 'flirted' with 'living treasure' - Antoine Bloemen, an innovative lawman who often used the "Common Sense Act" (as he called it) when presiding over his courtroom and handed out unusual sentences - such as buying a young offender a bicycle instead of sending him to detention.
As the session continued, I learn that Bloemen was the instigator for setting up the travelling court to remote communities - "The Circuit" and I became very excited, wondering "was he the real life Peter Lockhart?" the traveling magistrate from The Circuit! This TV drama set in Broome was a show I had become addicted to some years back - great story line, and it didn't hurt that Aaron Pederson was in it!!! Note to self - diarise in a Circuit binge-weekend.
asking the finder to post a selfie with their new 'friend.
Delighted treasure hunters and unsuspecting finders were quickly posting pics with their treasures and it was fabulous to read the Corrugated Lines FB Page to discover that even people who didn't realised the festival was on were finding the books and joining in the festival fun.
Congratulations Corrugated Lines - this event was a sure winner!
The Judge and Mary G were followed by a full reading of "Dirt Cloud" a new play by Mari Lourey. Read by local Kimberley actors this multi-award winning script set in the red dust of the north-west against a backdrop of mining, space exploration and connection to land has been under development for a number of years and is now close to its final touches.
Then as the last chapter drew to a close, it was on to the Epilogue - the last of the suns rays winked goodbye from the turquoise waters of Roebuck Bay as writers, organisers, and readers gathered together, raised the glass, ordered pizza and swapped emails addresses. Overhead the sky turned a burnt orange and painted the palms with silky mauve kisses.
And so as I sit here, reminiscing over this inspiring, remarkable writers and readers festival and take stock of the incredible gift I was given to be a part of it, to hear the deep and insightful conversations, stories and discussions from writers and oracles, especially the stories and words from the elders and indigenous writers of this wide land, I feel indeed I have dipped into a wonderful dream and been immersed into a beautiful community, both in spirit and in body.
Thank you to Sally for taking me under your wing and facilitating my being at the festival. It was an absolute pleasure to meet you.
Thank you to the Corrugated Lines Festival Co-ordinator - Rani Middleton for inviting me and many thanks to the festival team - Gillian, Christine and all those involved - thank you for being so welcoming and helpful and for producing such an incredible event. The friendliness, relaxed vibes and inspiring stories will remain with me for all time.
May there be many more returns to the Corrugated Lines.
No more ironing underpants