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Words on the fields of Belongil

Hmmm, this is different, I thought when I first saw the new site for 2009 at Belongil Fields, and especially the woodchips scattered across the ground. The Splendour in the Grass festival, two weeks earlier, was not kind to the grass. But then I just enjoyed all on offer at the festival. Perhaps it’s a Byron thing, or in my case, an in-proximity-to-Byron-thing, that reduces one’s snark quotient over time. I remember my first visit to the festival some years ago, just after returning from London, when I wrote to the director annoyed about the way some session was handled. This year I took the measure of the new site and thought OK, now what’s first on the programme?
I mean, when you’re sitting under a marquee listening to Tom Keneally’s (ever-prolific with two new books, here and here) hilarious and incisive political dissection of the works of Jane Austen, accompanied by kookaburras, or Robert Gray’s (his latest here) brilliant anecdote about his Chinese translator (that I’ll post here in the next day or three), you’re in the moment, and sentimentality about festivals past slips away. And wasn’t that a long sentence?
And speaking of those:
Geoffrey Robertson’s speech on the opening night ran for 1 hour, 13 minutes, and 31 seconds on my recording of it. I mostly lasted the distance for I enjoy good oration, and found much of interest  in Robertson’s passion about human rights and an Australian Bill of Rights as reported here. But my concentration drifted for an undetermined number of minutes, clicking back in for some reason when Robertson spoke of Vaclev Havel, although I don’t think he was ‘name-dropping’ as an acquaintance suggested. I enjoyed Robertson’s quoll joke the first time but felt it was a shame, a semi-snark creeping in here, that real concerns people tried to raise with him, about State Government stamping over local democracy, were dispensed of with an oft-repeated joke.

Speaking of levity, some Keneally, and that other Tom, Tom Gleeson, and Denise Scott will follow in later posts, as and when, Byron style.

Marian Edmunds


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