A tiny, remote NSW village will host big names for the third annual St Albans Writers Festival in early September. Mad Max director George Miller, literary icon Tom Keneally and Pulitzer winner Sebastian Smee are among stars of the show.
Historic St Albans (population 300) is located deep in the Hawkesbury Heartland, on the banks of the MacDonald River, about 115km northwest of Sydney. It was largely known as a picturesque pit stop – or quaintly known as a “travellers’ rest”. More recently, it’s become a centre for writers, artists and people seeking a sea/tree change.
And get this.
This will also be the weekend (September 8-10) where the literati will unplug and get to know each other little better than usual because there’s NO INTERNET or MOBILE PHONE SERVICE.
St Albans is off the hyper-connected grid. No perusing your phone the moment your attention span wanders, no checking social media updates, no banal texting loved ones with daily trivia. Zero, zilch, zip, nada. Instead it will be you, your fellow writers and readers, and coffee, wine, more wine, great food and lots and lots of face-to-face (instead of phone-to-phone) conversation and books in a pretty country setting with blossom breaking out. Sounds awful?
The festival precinct includes historic buildings: St Albans Church, the Settlers Arms Inn, the School of the Arts Hall, and marquees corralled around a huge fire and hay bales in the St Albans Reserve festival hub. Every event is within walking distance. Ample parking on site.
As mentioned, St Albans is in a time warp. Your environmental footprint will be minimal. No wi-fi or mobile phone coverage in St Albans village (it stops once you cross the Hawkesbury). No servos in the village so fill up with gas south at Wisemans Ferry, if you’re going up from Sydney. No ATMs in the village (the nearest is Wisemans Ferry), so cash up before you arrive! With no internet, the festival organisers can’t link to credit card or EFTPOS services either so cash is the way to go.
Who else will be there?
Inveterate traveller and writer Ailsa Piper, ABC luminary Tony Jones, writers Nicki Gemmell, Melina Marchetta, media personality and indigenous activist Stan Grant, and the list goes on. Workshops cover fiction, non fiction, emerging writers, the perils of populism and short story readings around a camp fire.
Save the dates for St Albans Writers Festival: September 8-10, 2017.
Tony Jones will deliver the Friday night opening address about his take on the festival’s theme Escape and Explore.
Col Lyons, Wiradguri man and digeridoo player, will present the welcome to country opening smoking ceremony.
Caterer Simmone Logue’s Dinner with the Writers is a chance to break bread, clink glasses with writers and fellow guests.
The Settlers Arms Inn will serve an authentic 1836 dinner, curated by resident gastronomer at Sydney Living Museums, Jacqui Newling.
Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller AO will introduce his blockbuster on Saturday’s Film Night, served with wine and picnic hampers.
$120 for an All Day Pass (5 writers’ sessions)
$200 for a Weekend Pass (10 writers’ sessions)
Special Event tickets sold separately
For program events and tickets click HERE
From Sydney: 90-minute drive northwest of Sydney via Castle Hill, Dural and Wisemans Ferry, and across the Hawkesbury River on the free Webbs Creek or Wisemans Ferry 24 hours a day car ferry service.
From the Central Coast: Turn off Newcastle Freeway at Peats Ridge and head via Mangrove Mountain, past Wisemans Ferry and onto Settlers Road.
From the Hunter Valley: Via Wollombi to Bucketty. Turn right at the Wisemans Ferry sign and continue for 35km.
Kiss mobile reception goodbye. And that means your GPS won’t be any use either.
Plenty of places to stay in the surrounding district. Scroll down to the bottom of the festival program page HERE for options.