When I first checked out the program guide for the 2014 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, I felt a little confused. Book launches and poetry slams: great, just as I had expected. Panel discussions about environmental artists, expats in Bali and dealing with drug addiction: incredible, but what does that have to do with anything?
Perhaps the festival needed a name change. A grand new title that honoured it as a celebration of all things inspiring and creative and dispelled its somewhat intimidating cloak of literary prestige.
Since attending the event, the common thread and relevance of the 11-year-old title is palpable; the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is a celebration of all kinds of storytellers. Mediums and publishing history fall short against the significance of bravery and passion, the trademarks of every speaker at the event.
The story of walking across the Australian desert with a dog and four camels; the story of being a Syrian, lesbian, drug addict, criminal in New York City; the story of educating Indonesians on the issues their subjective media ignore; the story of making a documentary film about the murder of a friend and fellow journalist in East Timor. The enormity and variety was nothing shy of incredible.
And the audience’s response? They told their stories right back. In almost every session across the main program of the 5-day event, an audience member was moved to share segments of their own narrative during question time. From confessions of heroin abuse to plights with siblings and deep rooted political views, no topic was off limits and no tears were judged.
If you didn’t make it along to this year’s event, check out my full review for inBali.org. Hopefully it will inspire you to come along next year.