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This report is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

A Word Festival Ruth Morse
The first Australian National Word Festival took place as part of the Canberra Festival from 19 to 21 March 1983 at University House, Australian National University. This early autumn long weekend brought in scores of people to listen and talk, in a relaxed and informal atmosphere made possible by generous sponsorship. The British Council, the Australia Council, the Canberra Times, as well as local businesses and restaurants, contributed generously. There was no registration fee; people wrote their names on squares of paper cellotaped to their shirts, and wandered in and out sampling sessions. The local bookshop displayed and sold books by the participants in the Festival, and piles of free books rapidly diminished as people sorted through them looking for paperback treasures. Although most of the speakers were Australian, as befits a National Word Festival, two English novelists, Zoe Fairbairn and Alan Garner, had come. Publishers spoke of their interests in writers, and writers responded in kind. Sessions ranged from oral history, Aboriginal writing, the making of Australian English dictionaries, women's writing, to a whole day devoted to writing for children. In a Writers' Marathon devised by Rodney Hall, poet, novelist, and editor of the Collins Anthology of Australian Poetry, over a dozen writers had half an hour each to describe, discuss, and read from their current work. Poetry was well represented. The Festival was opened by A. D. Hope, who also chaired the session on Asian writers as well as launching a new collection of poems by Mark O'Connor, another ...


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