Report from the NTWriters’ Festival 2022: Balarr – Catching the Light

How many writers’ festivals are held on the edge of the ocean under a tropical sky? In Darwin, called Garrmalang in the language of the Larrakia people, visitors were treated to four days of fantastic literary events beneath leafy casuarina trees or in the shade of a huge marquee. The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory hosted the event in its expansive grounds from 23 to 26 June 2022.

Guest authors included Hannah Kent, John Safran, Lee Kofman, Sarah Holland-Batt and Delia Faulkner, all big names from interstate. First Nations writers were well represented by Larissa Behrendt, Jackie Huggins and Ngaire Jarra, with the participation of Yvette Holt, Chairperson of the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network (FNAWN).

With fellow NT author Renée McBryde talking about A Dangerous Daughter. Photo by Sam @reelwireproductions

The panel I took part in, called Letting the Light In, discussed ways of shining a light on the knowledge and compassion with which we overcome past trauma. I was joined by two other Territory writers, Renée McBryde (pictured above) author of Unravelling Us, and Karen Manton, author of The Curlew’s Eye.

Panel: Letting the Light in

Three powerful NT authors – Renee McBryde, Karen Manton and Dina Davis – come together for an engrossing discussion about overcoming trauma and the shame of the past. Renee McBryde’s latest memoir, Unravelling Us, explores a mother-daughter relationship steeped in lies and shame, and the painful process of bringing the past to light. Dina Davis’s novel, A Dangerous Daughter, examines the shame and blame of an eating disorder, and the power of the mind to heal. The Curlew’s Eye is Karen Manton’s debut novel, a haunting mystery set in the stifling tropical build up that examines the way trauma reverberates through the generations.

We must have struck a chord, because there was a rush to purchase our books from the Festival Bookshop. It was gratifying to learn that copies of A Dangerous Daughter sold out very quickly.

L to R: Karen Manton, Renee McBryde and Dina Davis: Letting the Light In

A highlight for me was hearing Hannah Kent interviewed by The Book Show’s Sarah LeStrange, and meeting Hannah later to discuss writing challenges. I felt proud to be in such illustrious company!

The four day festival ended with “Wild Words” when TopEnd Poets took the stage. Here I am reading A Dangerous Daughter: the Poem to an appreciative and no doubt exhausted audience at the grand finale!

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