Beautiful spot for a pageant however no picnic, says founder


“Berry is such an interesting city and once I emailed potential authors, each single one stated ‘we’d love to come back to Berry for a pageant’, says creative director Suzanne Burdon. Photograph: Andy Hutchinson

THERE’S a robust Canberra contingent among the many writers heading to the inaugural Berry Writers Pageant.

Once I meet up with the founder and creative director, Suzanne Burdon, I discover that organising a writers’ pageant is not any picnic.

Burdon, herself the writer of “Nearly Invincible”, a biographical novel about Mary Shelley, lives in close by Gerroa and her daughter lives in Berry.

“I assumed it could be a pleasant, heat and cosy occasion for readers and authors in a stunning little village, I assumed it could be very artistic, however I had no thought in regards to the scale of what was required… it’s an enormous deal placing on a writers’ pageant, I used to be so naïve,” she says. 

Fortunately, Berry seems to have a really artistic neighborhood with many native authors she didn’t find out about, and lots of palms to assist, so after a false begin in covid-fraught 2021, the occasion is now scheduled for late October. 

“Berry is such an interesting city and once I emailed potential authors, each single one stated ‘we’d love to come back to Berry for a pageant’,” she says.

Making it work is one other matter. She took recommendation from individuals within the city, from local-region bookshops and from consultants akin to publishing marketing consultant and freelance editor Mary Cunnane, who lives within the space and got here on to the committee.

There are pluses to having a pageant within the Shoalhaven area from the lodging perspective and all of the authors, she says, are being accommodated by locals. 

However “billeting” will not be fairly the phrase, as a number of the locations the place authors shall be staying are attractive properties in rolling hills and countryside, whereas others will keep in motels the place the native enterprise individuals have given a number of rooms for the 2 nights.

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Shoalhaven Council got here good with a grant, however the remaining got here from non-public donations and sponsors, together with the Neilson Basis.

From the outset, Burdon was sceptical in regards to the worth of an overarching theme, believing they’re normally created on the finish as an afterthought.

“I don’t like themes,” she tells me. “Studying is a really particular person pastime, so it’s fantastic when you may go someplace and discover one thing that speaks to you.”

Pageant founder Suzanne Burdon.

Not in contrast to Canberra Writers’ Pageant, there’s a robust political pressure within the occasion, with public figures akin to former Australian ambassador to Indonesia, Gary Quinlan; ANU emeritus historian Iain McCalman, and journalists Peter Hartcher, Rick Morton, Jacqueline Maley and Jane Caro speaking in regards to the problems with the day.

However a number of the politically-minded pageant members have develop into authors, together with Paul Daley, writer of “Canberra”, “Beersheba” and “Collingwood: A Love Story”, and former Australian Greens and now writer, Senator Scott Ludlam, who has written his first ebook, “Full Circle : A Seek for the World That Comes Subsequent”.

“You must get the individuals with massive names like who’ve political points to debate, however we even have individuals who write heat and attention-grabbing books, so there’s one thing for individuals who get pleasure from enjoyable,” Burdon says.

On the big-name entrance, there’ll be ubiquitous environmentalist Tim Flannery giving the opening-night keynote tackle, authors Ceridwen Dovey and Anita Heiss, and Canberra social commentator Hugh Mackay.

On the “attention-grabbing” entrance, there’ll be Canberra author David Dufty, writer of “Nabbing Ned Kelly”; Nigel Featherstone, whose “My Coronary heart is a Little Wild Factor” is ready within the Monaro; Craig Silvey, writer of “Jasper Jones” and “Honeybee” and star youngsters’s writer Allison (AL) Tait.

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And in case it sounds altogether too high-minded, concern not. Mark Tredinnick, Julie Janson and Omar Sakr shall be there to remind guests that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” and in Berry Lodge, 6.30pm on Saturday, October 22, there’ll be “Grasp Out on the Pub,” and a tribute to the late writer, Frank Moorhouse. 

Berry Writers Pageant, October 21-23, program particulars at 

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Ian Meikle, editor