Readers, Writers & Bs

On the Queen’s Birthday long weekend 2 Triple B broadcast for the first time from the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival. It was also a first time at the Festival for our former journalist, new presenter, Jacqui.

Story by Jacqui Lough

It’s almost a year ago now that I moved to Bellingen from London, unpacking boxes while town was busy with the Winter Music Festival. Since last July, though, I greatly looked forward to another event over the long weekend at the beginning of June. As someone who has loved reading and writing her entire life, spending most of my career as a journalist, I was of course anticipating the Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival that took place 7-9 June.

Whether I was participating or attending, in the past these events usually meant getting on an airplane and making a special trip. Here in beautiful Bellingen, however, we are very lucky for the festival to come to us.

The 2 Triple B FM crew were on hand with our trusty blue OB1 van, broadcasting live from outside the Memorial Hall on Sunday. The station had been participating, though indirectly, up to that point: our own Seth Jordan was the Festival’s hard-working publicist, Deb Spillane moderated several panels and interviewed such luminaries as Australian award-winning journalist and Walkley Foundation chairman Kerry O’Brien; “Sunday Service” presenter Eve Jaremka was an integral voice on a panel of journalist pros – and seated next to Mr. O’Brien, no less.

Our little radio station is at heart the voice and ears of the community, though, and this year we really wanted to be more involved in the BRWF. Our mission was to bring some of the talent from the festival to our listeners. So early on Sunday, station chairman Kye Ruigrok brought OB1, our outside broadcast van, down to the Memorial Hall and with the help of a few 2bbb roadies got it set up to broadcast live from the festival. I should say that doing this involves a lot of work, and I’m endlessly awed by the good-natured manner Kye and crew get this done.

With the van cleaned and set up, we were ready to welcome a rotating cast of presenters and authors from morning until sundown. This was my very first time doing an outside broadcast – I had seen the small blue van, but I had never sat inside it. I was, to be honest, a bit nervous that we’d all fit! Just before 10am, presenter Eve Jaremka and I climbed in, took our seats, got our playlist ready, and eagerly awaited the arrival of our guests.

Our first interview was with the Walkley Award-winning journalist Tom Iggulden, and proved a perfect way to kick things off for us: a trio of reporters always find something to discuss! Tom grew up here in Bellingen, and he got his start in radio as a teenager on our very own 2 Triple B. He spent several years covering China as the ABC’s Beijing correspondent, and he’s now based in Canberra as a political reporter covering parliament. Our conversation continued some of the discussion about press freedoms and law enforcement that was also a weighty topic on the 21st Century News & Information panel Tom (and Eve) were on the night before.

Next we chatted with author Mark Brandi about his novels, Wimmera, which won numerous awards including the British Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and his latest, The Rip. Mark was born in Italy, but grew up in rural Victoria, and we heard how both his upbringing and his career in the justice system inspired and influenced the stories he tells in both books. We also discussed his decision to set Wimmera, which is a story about an Australian country town with a disastrous dark side, in the exact town he grew up in instead of a fictional location. Being new to life in an Australian country town, I’m quite keen to check it out. One of the perks of getting to chat with the talent the festival brought to us: new adventures in literature!

Bellingen local Elisa Hall joined us next. Elisa is an accomplished artist, with a mastery not just of fine oil painting techniques but also the generous spirit to teach these skills to the masses. Before we discussed her work as an author, we heard fascinating details on the process of creating colours for painting, which made me realise this is partly what makes her such an exciting talent in literature: a knack for finding the captivating history of things. Elisa started writing fairly recently and is already being recognised for her short story, “Radiance.” A uniquely strong and feminine voice, I look forward to reading more from Ms. Hall.

Last but certainly not least, we had the honour of meeting and chatting with Morris Gleitzman. Eloquent and thoughtful, he humbly discussed his many accomplishments with us – he is not just the author of many adult and children’s books, he is also the current Australian Children’s Laureate. Morris spoke about why he writes for children and teenagers, and the importance of having a voice and being understood at all ages.

Our outside broadcast van may be little, but after spending a few hours reporting from it, I can assert that OB1 is incredibly warm and spacious inside, so much so that we decided, along with several of our guests, that it was very much like a TARDIS.

All in all, more than half a dozen presenters chatted with two dozen festival panelists in the series of live interviews starting in the morning and running continuously until sunset. I can’t wait until next year.

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