Post by Adriana Alvarez.
Stories Up High Children’s Writers Festival, being held during May in iconic venues throughout the Dandenong and Yarra Ranges. It is a festival of ideas, imagination, and laughter. It includes a range of author talks, exhibitions, puppet shows, movies, storytelling, competitions, cooking, writing, gardening, reading, and train rides.
This Festival has something for everyone. Whether you are a child, or a parent grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend, there is an event for you! We spoke to organiser Melissa Chip about Autumn Authors and what the festival has to offer.
Can you tell me a bit about Autumn Authors?
Autumn Authors is the name of the festival we ran 2 years ago in the Dandenong Ranges. This year we have morphed into Stories Up High which has more of a focus on children and has been extended out to the Yarra Valley. We have had a bit of a coup, actually. Partnering with the Wheelers Centre we have booked David Walliams from Little Britain and now an incredibly popular children’s author. He is arguably one of the biggest names to ever come to the Dandenongs! He will be at Skyhigh on Tuesday 12 May. We also have Australia’s favourite kids author, Andy Griffiths headlining a day of literary fun on Sunday 17 May. We have events for preschools including story time on Puffing Billy, Digging and reading at Cloudehill with Diggers Seeds and Dreamtime stories at Healesville.
We also have a pretty fabulous program coming out this week for secondary school kids. A writing workshop with award winning short story author Cate Kennedy who is a regular on the ABC’s Book Show; a play on the VCE curriculum – Kelly; a performance poetry competition – or a slam off with Emily Zoey Baker; and a presentation/interview event with Rebecca Starford, author of new controversial book Bad Behaviour about bullying in an elite Melbourne boarding school – the last 2 events happening at Burrinja.
Is this festival aimed more at children who love to write (future authors) or at kids who love books?
It is aimed at both really. We have events that will inspire kids to write, like the creative writing and garden cooking at Shannon Bennett’s the Piggery where children under 12 will choose food from the garden, cook with Piggery chefs and then write about their experiences to win a prize judged by Shannon Bennett. Also at our big showcase day with Andy a Griffiths at Skyhigh, children will be invited to find words which will be hung and hidden amongst the trees and use those to write a poem. We also have events for kids who love to read with some of their favourite authors – David Walliams and Andy Griffiths – you can’t get better than that! But I reckon most kids who love to write also love to read – and probably mostly visa versa as well.
Why is it so important for children to be introduced to books early on?
How long have I got! I guess I believe it is important to plant the seed for a love of reading at an early age, especially in an age where life is technology rich and we process much of our interaction at a surface level, books are able to immerse you in a world of imagination and thought. At the last festival Andy Griffiths preformed for an hour to over 300 children and then signed books and engaged with every child afterwards. These children were in absolute awe of him and laughed and called out and asked questions and told him about their stories and what they loved about his books. To see these kids so engaged and in admiration of him – an author, not a footballer or Australian Idol star, warmed the heart. They were all inspired to read more to write more, to use their imagination and share ideas, to laugh, think and create and to engage more in literacy. That’s got to be a good thing – doesn’t it?
What do you hope kids (young and old) will get out of this event?
I hope they have fun first. I hope they get inspired to read and write more and gain a deeper understanding about the writing and reading experience. I hope they get out and experience the beautiful Dandenongs and Yarra Valley during autumn when it is at its very best, whether they live here or they are visiting from Collingwood. And most of all, I hope they tell all their friends what a great time they’ve had and the come back next year!
Other events include
8 – 23 May First ever exhibition of Andy Griffiths “Secret Stuff”. Ever wondered what motivated Andy to write his totally disgusting but utterly entertaining wonderful books – well here’s your chance to find out. The Memo Healesville 11.00am – 4.00pm (closed Mondays) Free
10 May Aboriginal Storytime at Healesville Sanctuary. Meet Wurundjeri Elder Murrundindi and Aunty Dot Peters at the Dreaming Place, Wurundjeri Walk, as they share stories of cultural significance. Healesville Sanctuary 12.45pm to 1.45pm
12 May David Walliams and Eddie Perfect. David Walliams, the new Roald Dahl, hosted by Eddie Perfect, will discuss his stories and read from one of his best selling books. David will be available afterwards for book signing. Skyhigh, Mt Dandenong 5.00pm – 6.00pm
14 – 15 May Creative Writing and Garden Cooking. Children’s passion for writing and cooking will be simultaneously stimulated with this delightful event at Shannon Bennett’s Piggery on the stunning Burnham Beeches estate in Sherbrooke. The Piggery, Sherbrooke 4.00pm to 6.00pm
16 May Storytime on Puffing Billy. Stories with pirates and fairies and trains – what could be better! Perfect for preschoolers. Puffing Billy, Belgrave 11.10am
17 May Andy Griffiths headlines Stories Up High. Share a hilarious morning with superstar author Andy Griffiths, and after book signings, be entertained by Punch and Judy, enjoy stories from fairies and pirates and participate in fun literacy games. Skyhigh, Mt Dandneong 10.30am – 4.00pm
23 May Opera Australia presents Hansel and Gretel. Introduce your children to the magic of opera through Opera Australia’s delightful production of one of the best loved Brothers Grimm tales, returning to Victoria in 2015 by popular demand. The Memo, Healesville 5.00pm
23 May Reading and Digging with Mr Peabody. Hands on experience gardening with Diggers Seeds and author talks for the little ones in the beautiful gardens of Cloudehill. Cloudehill, Olinda
Also don’t miss the Secondary program, including;
21 May Kelly. A play on the VCE curriculum for over 15 year olds. The Memo, Healesville 7.30pm
23 May Cate Kennedy writing workshop – Finding Your Voice. Gain practical help with writing for VCE in one of two writing worksop with acclaimed author, Cate Kennedy. Pirianda Gardens, Olinda 9.30am and 1.30pm
Check the website for more details.