A Rock and Roll Writers Festival: Why I wish this event existed ten years ago

Today, I turned 27. At present, I find myself in an incredibly lucky position to write about and interact with some of my personal and professional heroes, all the while being afforded opportunities to involve myself with the music world I wouldn’t have dared think possible a decade ago.

This past weekend, one of those opportunities played out in the form of the Rock and Roll Writers Festival. Flying to Brisbane from Adelaide for the event (in its second year in 2017), my stomach was twisted with excitement and anxiety. I had been invited to speak on a panel alongside two well-respected names in the Australian music media to discuss the role of music criticism and the contemporary music critic. As a ‘voice’ for the younger generation, I felt the weight of the responsibility but also the hunger to get out there and sink my teeth into the two day writers festival.

The resounding thought I had during the weekend though, was ‘How lucky are we to have this event?’ – as I looked ahead to my 27th this week, I recalled first starting to have the itch to be a music journalist around this time ten years ago. With my formative years spent in the isolated capital that is Darwin, the opportunities to become involved in music media were thin. The closest I had come to any workshops with ties to interstate media was one hosted by – then – triple j’s Steve Cannane. While informative and encouraging, it didn’t really give me much in the way of leading me to the occupation I would eventually land.

An event like the RRWF though? Here is a literary event I would have ravenously absorbed as an aspiring writer, which is why I can fully understand the importance of it now I’ve been a part of it. A missing link in the national calendar of music and arts-related events, what Leanne de Souza and Joe Woolley have done with the RRWF is nothing short of amazing. The festival has only been running for two years and yet, there’s such a strong sense of familiarity and community that abounds within it that indicates its potential for enduring success.

Where else could you sit in and learn from some of the country’s most esteemed musicians discuss the role of the ‘rock star’ and the ideologies, myths and stereotypes that surround the idea of masculinity within artistry? Or for that matter, where aspiring music photographers could listen to some of Australia’s (and the world’s) most prolific names tell their stories?

For an affordable price, so much knowledge is easily accessible. The panels, while dynamic and wide-ranging, remained candid and entertaining. You could go from watching Adalita and Tim Rogers one hour, to sitting in with Grammy winning writer Holly George-WarrenRolling Stone Australia‘s Rod Yates and Flying Nun Records’ Roger Shepherd in another.

Regardless of your experience level, this is an event to immerse yourself in. It’s an event to learn from, feel comfortable in the company of many other likeminded writers, photographers and aspiring industry professionals. Above all, the vibe was one that meant everybody felt included; no opinion was considered stupid or too inexperienced. Speakers milled about in the bar/bookshop area watching free panels and talking with attendees. Outside, there were photos taken, conversations continued and more questions asked that weren’t properly given time in the spotlight during Q&A sessions.

Following on from my panel on Saturday, I met a variety of people who all came from different and indeed diverse backgrounds of their own. What caught me the most was their eagerness to share and talk with me – either a complete stranger, a name on a business card or, until that point, an email address without a face to be put to. It’s this community I didn’t realise I’d so desperately wanted when I was that 17 year old looking to find places to get her shitty album reviews published. Now though, with the existence of the Rock and Roll Writers Festival, more emerging writers – especially younger ones – have an environment built, ready and waiting.

As music journalists, we are not the wordsmiths for publicists and agents; we are storytellers and, as my fellow panelist Michael Dwyer so perfectly put, be in a position to help continue the conversation an artist starts with their music. That in itself is an inspiring place to start from, and it’s this sort of inspiration the RRWF offers writers navigating their way through this unpredictable industry.

For more information about the Rock and Roll Writers Festival, visit www.rockandrollwritersfestival.com. The Tour Edition of the RRWF heads to Melbourne this Friday, April 9th.

Image: David Kapernick.

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