I’m making an unexpected trip to Newcastle this Saturday for the National Young Writers Festival, where I’m part of a free panel called No Man’s Land discussing war reportage.
War correspondence is undertaken by all parties involved in conflict. The NGO’s [sic], the military groups, and hopefully the civilians via a free press. This panel is an introduction to how these stories find their way to us.
The other panellists include people with some first-hand experience. Freelance photojournalist Ed Giles, who’s worked across the Middle East and Asia since 2006. Sierra Leonian journalist Olivia Boateng, who fled with her children. One child killed, and her family scattered, Olivia spent 5 years in a refugee camp before being granted refugee status. And there’s author and academic Debra Adelaide, who currently teaches the Creative Writing program at UTS.
I’m replacing Patrick Gray, producer of the Risky Business podcast on information security. Supposedly I’ll be talking about how all this changes in this new high-bandwidth networked age. Or how it doesn’t change.
No Man’s Land is this Saturday 2 October 2010 at the Elderly Citizens Centre [shoosh!], Laing Street, Newcastle, from 2.30pm to 4pm. It’s free, and you don’t have to register. Just rock up. And you can buy me a drink afterwards.
The National Young Writers Festival is all part of the grand This Is Not Art festival. It’s a great time to visit Newcastle. I went last year and wrote this Letter from Newcastle.
“That ‘This is Not Art’ thing this weekend, it’s like a fucking freak show walking past,” says the old guy in the yellow-tiled front bar of The Clarendon Hotel.
It’s just gone noon on Saturday. Apart from ’Pong and I having a burger and beer, he’s the only customer. His worldview of what Newcastle‘s Hunter Street should be like is challenged by the stream of paste-white black-clad comic fans, straggly-bearded eco-hippies, random hipsters and nose-ringed alternagothpunkteendykes strolling past the boarded-up shopfronts.
Noticing a skinny guy wearing yellow overalls and a torn red-striped t-shirt, our frowning drinker puts down his VB. “Hey, is there a circus in town? Because I can see a clown”, he calls out to the barman.
The barman smiles politely, but says nothing.
“Hey, is there a circus in town?”, he mutters, and takes another sip. He looks out at the soulless office buildings that replaced the landscape of his memory, in silence.
Yet these weird out-of-towners, with their experimental robotics, knitting and YouTube mashups, have brought more life to this industrial city’s ailing heart than any grandiose “development” plan.
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