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National Young Writers’ Festival shines a light on young queer talent

The National Young Writers’ Festival is entering its 20th year, with the festival giving a designated platform to LGBTIQ writers in its 2017 program.

Between September 28 and October 1, artists from around the country will arrive in Newcastle to participate in over 80 events including panels, roundtables, workshops and debates. October 1 will play host to events which are entirely comprised of LGBTIQ artists, known as the Pride Program. Featured events in the Pride Program include a queerness in fiction panel and a late night reading.

“There were a substantial number of artists who applied for the festival this year who identified as LGBTIQ. We decided to do something special to recognise these artists and create the Pride Program on Sunday,” said festival co-director David Graham.

Following on from the Pride Program, the Festival has been granted funding to advance its queer programming for 2018. While nothing has been confirmed as of yet, festival staff are considering establishing the ‘Young Queer Writers Program’. The proposed program will assist in connecting young and aspiring queer writers with other queer writers who are more established. This would emulate the structure of the currently-existing Younger Young Writers’ Program which gives under-18s access to talks and workshops for free.

The idea was initially proposed by a member of the Heywire Regional Youth Summit. Heywire is a program organised by the ABC which encourages regional youth to submit ideas that encourage social change. Community organisations were then invited to submit proposals which would help make these ideas a reality.

“We know that we engage with a large group of writers who fall within this demographic so it sounded perfect. Even though they may have a significant presence at this year’s festival, LGBTIQ writers remain a minority in greater society and we need to elevate their voices in whatever way that we can,” said festival coordinator Maggie Thompson.

Artists this year include editor-in-chief of Archer Magazine Adolfo Aranjuez, ABC journalist Casey Briggs and recently published author Brodie Lancaster. The more established artists will be leading events which aim to inspire and educate younger and emerging writers on issues which may not be given ample coverage.

Artist and Newcastle local Luci Regan has an extended history with NYWF and is delighted to see the festival continue.

“The festival is something I consider intrinsic to Newcastle’s culture and my life,” they said.

“I’ve been going to TiNA and NYWF since I was a kid and it’s so amazing and such a privilege to be a part of an amazing event in my home town.”

“Writing can often feel incredibly isolating. Like you’re scratching away in some darkened corner,” said artist and editor Roj Amedi.

“National Young Writers’ Festival, in contrast or perhaps in response to that experience, feels like someone has drawn back the curtains and you have an entire plethora of creative people looking back at you, ready to offer insight and guidance.”

The Festival is one of three co-presenters which comprise the overarching This is Not Art (TiNA) festival, alongside Crack Theatre Festival and Critical Animals.

TiNA producer Christina Robberds celebrated the festival’s 20th year, saying, “the festival has become an integral part of the nation’s arts calendar.”

“Artists from around the country converge on Newcastle to share ideas, meet like-minded creative collaborators, and test work in a safe and supportive environment”.

Featured image: Editor-in-chief of Archer, Adolfo Aranjuez, at the National Young Writers’ Festival. Photo credit: Sarah-Jane Edis

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