Words on the Waves Writers Festival inaugural event roaring success

The first-ever writers festival to take place on the Central Coast of NSW, Words on the Waves, has marked a hugely successful inaugural event over the June long weekend 11 – 14. 

It hosted nearly 20 sold-out sessions, over 40 inspiring authors, a schools program attracting 1200 primary school students, and a bustling bookshop run by local independent bookseller The Book Shop Umina.

Commencing with an address by Children’s Laureate Ursula Dubosarsky, who implored the young communities of the Coastal region to “read for their life”, the festival continued with its school program featuring First Nations writers and environmental messages with the theme ‘Warrior for Change’. Participating writers included Deb Abela, Kirli Saunders, Oliver Phommavanh and Susanne Gervay.

After a rousing opening night event with Richard Fidler alongside David Hunt, the main program kicked off on Saturday June 12 with five sessions, and then four sessions on the Sunday. Themes included place, belonging, identity, equity, and our shared environmental future, with authors as varied as OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn, student climate activist Daisy Jeffrey, literary writer Emily Maguire, local historian Garry Linnell, crime novelist Candice Fox and more. 

Festival Patron Margaret Pomeranz AM hosted an intimate movie screening and conversation alongside lauded film and theatre director Neil Armfield on the Saturday evening, and on Sunday June 13 Matt Stanton led a rollicking family fun day, the culmination of a Coast-wide illustration competition for youths.

The weekend concluded on Monday with a literary cruise through the scenic Brisbane Waters, led by authors with a tie to the region, historian Grace Karskens and memoirist Vicki Hastrich. 

Partner bookshop The Book Shop Umina reported strong sales across all events, with the following the top 10 for the Festival: 

  1. Who Gets to be Smart, Bri Lee
  2. The F Team, Rawah Arja
  3. Song of the Crocodile, Nardi Simpson
  4. People of the River, Grace Karskens
  5. My Year of Living Vulnerably, Rick Morton
  6. The Ripping Tree, Nikki Gemmell
  7. My Year of Living Mindfully, Shannon Harvey
  8. The Golden Maze, Richard Fidler
  9. The Other Half of You, Michael Mohammed Ahmad
  10. A Repurposed Life, Ronni Kahn

Despite currently having no federal, state, or council funding, plans are already underway for the 2022 festival as well as regular events throughout the year.

As committee member Benny Agius commented in her Launch speech: 

“The Central Coast is a thriving, book-reading literary community that deserves to have a yearly writers festival. We have so many talented authors and illustrators, we have so many readers that want to celebrate them, and the words that they write. We want to have good discussions about why words matter, we want to encourage young people to write and embrace creativity and storytelling, we want challenge ideas and create meaningful conversation, we want to celebrate and know more about Aboriginal storytelling and we should be able to do that in our place, this place.”