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16 July, 2021

Whitsunday Voices literary festival underway

More than 5000 children and adults from throughout the Mackay region will be part of the annual Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival this week. Bond University student and Mackay girl, Chloe Daniel reports.

WITH an expected attendance of more than 5000, eager children and adults around the region flock to meet their favourite authors and presenters as the Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival properly kicked off this week. 

 After being forced to cancel last year due to COVID-19, children and adults alike are thrilled by the festival’s return to Whitsunday Anglican School grounds, with a line-up of talented authors including Saroo Brierley, Tristan Bancks, Gaye Chapman, and Ruben Meerman.

Catering for children from Prep to Year 12, participants will have access to a diverse range of author workshops, the Poetry Slam Competition, a ‘chillout’ lounge area, food and beverage carts, as well as a bookshop which also includes the opportunity for personalised book signing.

 Festival manager Mrs Tracey Gurdler has been involved with the preparation of the event since her children started school; however, this is her first year in charge of it all.

 “I really love the concept behind [this festival]…I think it’s an excellent opportunity for the kids to be exposed to authors they normally wouldn’t be,” Mrs Gurdler said.

 “I also want the community to realise that they are more welcome than I think has been understood in the past…this event is not just for families of Whitsunday Anglican School; it is for everyone in our region.”

 This year, the Literary Dinner’s guest speaker is Indian-born Australian author Saroo Brierley, who is prominent for his journey home as the centre of his memoir A Long Way Home and film Lion.

 “When he was a little boy living in India, he fell asleep waiting for a train…he ended up a long, long way away from home…and was adopted by an Australian family and brought up in Tasmania,” Mrs Gurdler said.

 “About 30 years later, he was told about Google Earth, [and through] the memories of a water tower and a dam when he was growing up, he was able to find his home and reconnect with his family…it’s a really inspiring story.”

 Director of Explore Property Mackay Mr Ben Chick has been sponsoring this festival for four years now and believes it is one of the most important events of the year.

 “It’s the first event we lock in every year, and I believe it’s the most professional event on the calendar from a social perspective…I think it’s really important we give back to the community,” Mr Chick said.

 “The diversity of the Literary Dinner speakers is definitely a highlight for me…every year it’s someone different who is challenging and thought-provoking.

 “It is such a highly regarded, tightly-held night with the right people…it has sold out because it’s so highly regarded, and the value is the lingering effect it has on people,” he said.

 “5000 kids now have an opportunity, a story…[the festival] wouldn’t have the longevity it has had if it wasn’t beneficial to the kids, and we as sponsors are only a vehicle to make that happen.

 “This festival will have longevity because it also has a future generation of people supporting it, and that’s credit to the organisers.”

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