And 25,000 people.
Poetry Pathways, held in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens over the long weekend added a unique and artistic vibe to the already bustling Begonia Festival.
Sometimes seemingly lost amongst the crowd, the readers were never unnoticed as they strolled through the gardens with a portable speaker and microphone in hand, their voices rising above the din.
Each tour included a selection of 8 – 10 poems and we are very pleased that each poem that features in the Poetry Pathways Book got a a reading and all the poets who attended the workshop with Annette Chappell were available to read at least once during the weekend. Some poets read at all six tours which was a fantastic effort and contribution.
The youngest readers were 8 and 10 years old, both of whom got their mother to read their poem in the end, but they certainly owned every word as they stood proudly next to her. Our oldest reader…well, we would never say! But the group was as diverse as their subjects though there were a few themes that emerged.
The giant sequoias inspired five poems. The Prime Ministers also attracted the attention of three poets (including my personal favourite, Polka Dot Art by our 10 year old participant, Rhyall Williams). Statues also featured as subjects including Modesty, Flight from Pompeii, Hercules and the collective of Stoddard statues. There were also poems about the Lily Pond, the Druid’s Oak, the Sensory Garden, a very special Bunya Bunya Pine, and the two lion sentinels at the main entrance.
In its implementation, the poetry tour reminded us more of ‘pop up’ poetry than a poetry trail. We had a lot of competition with the record number crowds and an amazing array of activities (including a very loud sound stage with live music) so everything had to be negotiated and flexibly delivered. Our roving band would approach the subject of our poetry, stop, set up and with a brief announcement, begin to read our original work — poetry about the park, in the park.
We want to express sincere thanks for everyone who supported us in so many ways – photos, book sales, reading, recording and photographing. Many of the readings were recorded by ‘friend of Ballarat Writers’, John. We’re not yet sure what we’ll do with the recording once edited, but it’s certainly nice to have this record of the event. I’d like to make special mention of Neville Hiatt who was dispatched on short notice with a minimal brief to bring back photos from the Gardens. For those who have seen the book, the photos are outstanding. The cover shot has especially brought many glowing compliments. I also want to thank my fellow committee members who provided so much support and encouragement – before, during and after the events.
And a final word for our sponsors. Writers Victoria provided funding for our ekphrastic poetry workshops and one of their committee members even attended one of our afternoon tours. The City of Ballarat Community Events Unit contributed to our book production and provided logistic support with signage and portable microphone during the Festival as well as promotion through the Festival program.
Congratulations to all of our poets and readers. For some, it was their first foray into poetry and for others a first opportunity to perform their poetry in front of an audience. These are great artistic accomplishments!
Poetry Pathways Co-ordinator
Image by Neville Hiatt.