We’re now a few days post-festival. I knew it would take time to adjust when all the action came to a sudden stop – now that I’ve caught up on some sleep, and gotten back on top of various other commitments (see: laundry, eating vegetables that are not potatoes, reintroducing myself to my partner and family), my life seems slower than it was before the festival started. 

These last two weeks – indeed, the last six months – have been amazing and crazy. In the lead-up to the festival, in my role as program intern I was helping to plan the professional development stream of events, input a HUGE amount of data into the festival management program, and help out with general odds and ends. I appreciate the insane amount of work that goes into making a festival happen, and absolutely tip my hat to the whole team behind MWF – hardest working office in Melbourne.

The last two weeks have involved lots of running and a diet almost entirely made up of chips, and I’ve loved it. I’ve learned a lot about how events run, and met some really fantastic people. There’s a definite weirdness about living in other people’s pockets for two weeks – it brings barriers down, and the need for problems to be solved now means you get to know people on a faster time frame than relationships normally progress. Festivals are life in fast-forward, for a very limited time, but there’s no option for stopping, pausing, or taking the tape out. 

Now that we have stopped, I thought I’d briefly dot-point some highlights:

Moshing with Tavi Gevinson. A room of about 100 girls under the age of 20, jumping around in the Queen’s Hall at the State Library, Taylor Swift pumping, I cried a little out of happiness. I still haven’t quite nutted out what was so moving about this, but it most certainly was moving. I suspect it was only the dorky grown-ups who had a little tear, but I know I’m not the only one who was overwhelmed by it. Perhaps it’s about young people and possibility and openness and lady power. Perhaps. Or maybe I just hadn’t realized how much I like Taylor Swift.

– Andrew O’Hagan’s hilarity/seriousness mashup. Andrew O’Hagan speaks in a way that’s really exciting to listen to: he’s a very, very funny man. He also covers incredibly serious topics in his work (child jihadis, paedophilia in light entertainment industry, the toll fame takes on young people, mass murder, etc…) in a way that brings the most awful things in the world to your doorstep – he speaks in a way that puts those things RIGHT next to each other. He comes across as someone whose life is intense as hell – definitely one of the best speakers I’ve seen.

– Magda. On opening night, The Moth Storytelling presented stories of Moxie and Might. Magda Szubanski told a story about her father’s involvement in World War II, and what it taught her about fear and bravery. Overcome by emotion in the final moments of her story, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and I feel absolutely privileged to have seen this side of Magda. 

– Strangers connecting. There was a tweet-up, and KYD had drinks where contributors, staff and readers could meet, and I had a few people introduce themselves to me as readers of this blog. I saw two women meet up in the Wheeler Centre foyer after a session on Memoir, and decide to go for coffee and share their stories. They’d never met before. I love that the festival was a way to connect for everyone, no matter what their role or involvement was.

– Capable vollies. Next time you’re at a festival, think about the volunteers, and how incredibly hard they work. The volunteers behind me at the Wheeler Centre during the festival really held it up and I have so much respect for them. Thanks, guys!

Being told that I can. Professionally, I’m a huge self-doubter. I have trouble pinpointing my strengths, and looking at large projects and believing in myself. So huge, massive, inexpressible thanks need to go to Lisa Dempster and Mike Shuttleworth for telling me that I could do the job, and well. Now, on the other side of it, I believe I can.

Right, getting a little teary just writing about it, so I’m going to wrap it up here. The whole experience is so huge that I’m having trouble pulling it together neatly into a “lessons learnt” type of coherence – this is probably something that will happen in weeks to come. Overall, this has been such a great learning experience, and I’ve met so many great people. Having an excuse to introduce myself to Claudia Karvan, Tavi, Andrew O’Hagan and so many other people was rad. Fangirl with a title. Heck yes.

I hope everyone from the MWF team is recovering and catching up on sleep, that Festival Director Lisa Dempster is having a fantastic time with the Bookwallahs, that you’re enjoying the many wrap-up posts that are coming out now that it’s over, and that you had a great festival experience.

Hanging out for next September!