Despite the wealth of writing talent at my table last night, no weapons changed hands. Yes it is a little odd, but I didn’t let that ruin what was otherwise a great night.

The dinner began with canapes out under the marquee, and a special introduction to Spatial Stories.

‘During the festival large-scale sound and video installations transformed the QEII Square into an art space focussed on the theme of environmental responsibility. Greg Shapley’s sound installations from debris from the Murray River, Yandell Walton’s large-scale projected video installation and Emilie Zoey Baker’s poetry especially written for the festival.  Spatial Stories also included the results of local artist David Smith’s collaboration with people and their responses to the theme. Yandell Walton’s large scale projections occurred nightly to the rear of the LibraryMuseum.’

The installations and projections were a great addition to the festival. As was Emilie, performance poet extraordinaire. Her performance before dinner was (appropriately) all about eating meat, about the way we eat meat, about the ethics of our eating habits. As EZ said, she isn’t a vegetarian, so it was an interesting approach to the issue. Her argument was for a more considered approach to meat eating, where we value the food and the production cycle, and don’t simply farm the planet to death. All done persuasively, poetically. (Oh and she kicked things off with her Aussie Legends poem (is that the right title..?) which is, always fantastic to hear her do.)

Then it was inside for the festivities. The tables were set up right there in the library, a great place for a literary dinner. The writers were spread out over the tables (I managed to be placed at a table with Nathan Curnow again… a weird déjà vu) and we immediately proceeded to engage in sparkling literary banter. We talked books, teaching, poetry, Best Aus poems etc etc… many many more intriguing topics. There was also wine, and food. Copies of Reader’s Digest were piled in the centre of each table, along with interesting page fragments from obscure sources (the image above is one of these, ably photographed by Angela Meyer).

Chris Masters’ keynote address had a different tone to his panel presentation of the previous night. He focussed on his beginnings in the Albury region, and he was quite positive about regional news networks, about the possibilities they offer, when compared to the much maligned national news bodies. Interestingly, a key figure that Masters invoked was the writer Eric Otto Schlunke, a 20th century writer who focussed his work very tightly on the Riverina region. Masters finds a lot to admire in this man’s work – actually the way he spoke of Schlunke really makes me want to find some of the writings too. Master’s address was relaxed, engaging, and quite positive, even when he was talking about the sustainability of journalism in the modern era.

So then more banter, more wine, more grave festival event analysis, until the desert arrives. This it seems was the signal for Nathan Curnow’s ‘impromptu’ poetry performance (although I did see him pacing a little nervously beforehand…) Nathan gave Cate Kennedy ‘the love’. He walked into the crowd, and performed his best love poetry for her. It was appropriate (her book is ‘book of the festival’) and, well, lovely. Lovely. Cate followed it up with her own poem. Something I’ve never seen her do, and equally lovely, and possibly even more impromptu. There was a lot of love in the room.

Things were winding down but that was the moment for mixing, and various table hopping ensued, various promises to catch up in the future, various excursions outside for cigarettes.

You’ve always got to be part of the group that ‘continues on’, that takes on the full experience. I joined Angela Meyer, Nathan Curnow, David Gilbey, Louise Southerden and Jason Steger for margaritas before bed. Lovely. Angela spilled her drink – Jason mopped it up. She tweeted about it straight away. I’m blogging about it now. We are ‘write’ around the murray.

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