“History never repeats, I tell myself before I go to sleep” … or so sang some new bloke from Fleetwood Mac. This year’s Bellingen Readers and Writer Festival tackles the relationship between history and what’s happening now.
By Debbie Spillane
These days, as scary parallels are regularly drawn between the events of last century and the rise of authoritarian-style rule and populist nativism in western democracies, a little “history never repeats” mantra might indeed help some of us to get a little shut-eye at night.
But what exactly is the relationship between history and what’s happening now? Does history really foreshadow and predict, or do we project the present onto the past? Does history help explain the present, or does it have a more active role, significantly shaping the present? And then there’s the pesky detail of exactly whose history we’re talking about – and whose version of it.
These are just some of the angles that you will hear explored, debated and generally kicked around at the Cedar Bar in Bellingen as part of the 2018 Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival on Sunday of the June long weekend. The session is called History – What The Past Means To The Present, and I’m very excited, and pleasantly challenged, by the prospect of chairing a panel that features a wealth of experience in the field of history, and many other disciplines.
Bruce Pascoe (pictured above) is the author of Dark Emu, Black Seeds – Agriculture or Accident, a groundbreaking, thought-provoking look at the bias, both conscious and unconscious, in the reporting of the history of Australia’s indigenous peoples.
Pascoe, who has another 26 books to his credit, also has a long list of achievements and experiences to inform a discussion on history – including work as a lecturer, an Aboriginal language researcher and archaeological site worker.
Catherine McKinnon is a playwright and theatre director who also lectures in performance and creative writing at the University of Wollongong.
Her latest novel Storyland has an unusual way of threading the past, present and future through the lives of her characters, across a period spanning four centuries on the banks of Lake Illawarra in NSW – exploring not just connection to each other, but to the land.
Dan Findlay is a historian turned pop culture content maker who has used his skills in many varied pursuits.
He has written and done photography for Rolling Stone, edited youth magazines and freelanced as a music writer. His first novel, Year of the Orphan, is a post-apocalyptic tale set in outback Australia, centuries into the future – and one of the underpinning themes is the power that the past holds over the present.
Both McKinnon’s and Findlay’s books were voted onto ABC-TV’s ‘The Book Club’ 2017 Top 10 list by the program’s viewers and readers.
Lisa Milner is lecturer in the School of Arts and Social Sciences on the Coffs campus of Southern Cross University, with a special interest in radical theatre, labour history biography, community organisations, labour movements and film.
Originally a filmmaker and screenwriter, her most recent book is Swimming Against the Tide, a biography of the activist Freda Brown. Milner is also involved in the Nambucca Valley Writers Group.
If you plan now to attend this panel discussion then, I think you’ll find that your immediate past has had a very worthwhile impact on your present. And history shows, you really should book ahead to make sure you don’t miss out.
History – What The Past Means To The Present
Chair: Debbie Spillane, with Bruce Pascoe, Catherine McKinnon, Dan Findlay & Lisa Milner
Sunday, June 10 – 10:00-11:00am, Cedar Bar, Church St, Bellingen
Single session $20.00
Bellingen Shire is a secret Australian hamlet along the Waterfall Way on the NSW mid-north coast. This region is popular for its unique landscape where the Great Dividing Range almost touches the sea. It boasts a diverse history and proud indigenous culture, and is home to an eclectic and supportive community of farmers, alternative lifestylers, tree-changers, and families who have called this region home for generations. Interesting in so many ways and with so much to offer, it’s no wonder visitors return time & time again, while other never leave…