Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 20, 2020

Yarra Valley Writers Festival goes digital…

Please note: the situation with COVID_19 is changing day by day, in Australia with more news of closures, and welcome news about support services and nimble organisations which are adapting with digital alternatives.  I have tagged all my posts with #COVID_19 so you can follow developments, and for a single authoritative voice offering the latest information and advice listen to theABC Coronacast podcasts delivered by Dr Norman Swan, which is accessible to international visitors as well.

Yesterday I received welcome news that the forthcoming Yarra Valley Writers Festival is going digital.

Amongst other disappointments, booklovers all over the world are confronting the cancellation of what is often a highlight of the reading year: their favourite reading festival.  (As regular readers know, last year we planned an entire holiday in NZ for the Auckland Writers Festival.  That’s another one that’s sadly been cancelled.)  However, nimble organisations are reconfiguring their activities to take account of the new reality, and while the Yarra Valley Writers Festival is, as far as I know, the first of them to go digital, I expect that others like the SWF and the Bendigo Festival will follow suit.

What follows is reproduced (with permission from festival director Brook Powell):


We are not cancelling the Festival – we’re simply changing the way we share the stories. YVWF are celebrating authors and their incredible stories in a full day of live streamed talks, conversations and performances May 9 2020.

Due to COVID-19 playing havoc with our lives, this festival in its inaugural year will be presented digitally. Our community need to lead the way with physical distancing, not social distancing.

Book-lovers are invited to tune in from their homes and experience keynote speeches, performances and beautiful (at times hard) conversations from some of the brightest minds in Australian literature.

Programmed by playwright Hannie Rayson (Hotel Sorento, Inheritance) the Festival presents contemporary authors but in a new, digital format.

‘’The way audiences experience art, culture and conversations has changed. For now. This is the time to be supporting Australian authors and celebrate writers who are prepared to challenge, enlarge and humanise our experience of the world,’’ said Hannie.

[LH: The list of presenters includes many who have been featured on this blog: this is my kind of festival, where I am spoiled for choice! Click the links to find out more.]

Writers and presenters featured in the livestream include Tony Birch (The White Girl), Chris Flynn (Mammoth), Eliza Henry-Jones (How to Grow a Family Tree), Robert Gott (The Holiday  Murders), Vicki Hastrich (Night Fishing)Elizabeth McCarthyMeg Mundell (The Trespassers), Ailsa Piper (The Attachment: Letters From A Most Unlikely Friendship)Hannie Rayson, Angela Savage (Mother of Pearl), Jock Serong (Preservation), Michael Veitch (Hell Ship, Turning Point), Donna Ward (The Whole Bright Year), David Williamson (Don’s Party), Charlotte Wood (The Weekend) and more to be announced.

This first for the Yarra Valley, live streaming an entire day of creative activity, is being made possible by our partnership with Yarra Ranges Council.

There will be a small charge to view the day, which will enable the Festival to pay the authors, technicians and performers.

Current ticket holders will be contacted by Yarra Ranges Council to refund their purchases. Online viewing tickets will go on sale in early April.

For the revised program (ready by early April) visit

If you haven’t already please take a look at our Facebook page and Instagram page and do share information as often as you can.

Onward and upward! (with a book in hand)

Brook Powell
Festival Director

For more information contact

Brook has confirmed that the livestream will be available internationally and payment will be through PayPal.  

#MoreFreeAdviceFromLisa: I suspect that other festival organisers will be watching this closely to see if going digital is economically viable.  If you were going to attend, and you’re financially viable yourself, please consider buying a digital viewing ticket.  If you weren’t going, but you like the idea, please try to support it too.  Sue from Whispering Gums has attended digital versions of the Sydney Writers Festival live-streamed to the ACT and reported on them on her blog, and you can see here how much she enjoyed being able to ‘attend’ in this way.

PS For those of you who don’t know the area, the Yarra Valley is one of the most beautiful spots in my world.  It is a mecca for wine lovers, with wonderful vineyards to visit and restaurants to dine in, and the scenery is sublime.  if you’ve never been there, bookmark this link, and add it to your bucket list for when things return to normal.  Which they will…


  1. This is a great initiative on the organisers part


    • Yes, so many exciting things are happening… I just got the news today that my French classes are going digital. I’m going to have to learn Skype. Do you have it?


  2. This is really great to see, Lisa – and thanks for the link. Of course the SWF ones I went to were streamed to a venue but that’s just on step different from watching at home. I will try to buy some tickets if things have settled down here on the home front.


    • Here and there, just enough to keep us smiling, there are silver linings…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Lisa, for the helpful podcast link. Currently, there are flight disruptions and cancellations impacting all inbound and outbound postal items from/to Israel to my regret.


    • Hi Moshe, you’ve just made me realise… maybe with all our flights cancelled we won’t get imports of books either. During the war, Australian cultural life was very badly affected because there were no imports of books. Well, of course now there are digital products, but still… I’m glad I got my copy of Hilary Mantel’s new book in time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Lisa, I’m afraid we are entering into long trying times. I’m glad you got Mantel’s recent book early enough. I am still waiting for a lot of books I had ordered before the pandemic to arrive at my end. I also hope that a parcel I had sent to Goroke, VIC two weeks ago will arrive on time, I am a bit worried.


    • Parcel deliveries to very small country towns like Goroke do tend to take a while, and there may not even be a post office there, so I wouldn’t think that two weeks is an unusual delay, especially if they don’t have a daily delivery service.
      The other thing to bear in mind is that while many more people are ordering things online now when they wouldn’t normally, so there is extra pressure on all delivery services and couriers. Last week when I couldn’t drive after my eye surgery I ordered a couple of things online when normally I would go to the shops, and one of them arrived two days later than they had advised, and the other hasn’t turned up at all after a week. (They sent me an email apology). My guess is that for a lot of people, shopping is a hobby, and instead of hanging out in shopping malls, they are browsing and buying online because they are bored and can’t think of anything else to do. And online retailers are certainly taking advantage of that.


      • There is, surprisingly, a post office in Goroke which has a daily delivery service, but it will take a while indeed and I’ll have to be patient. I and my wife are at home as my country, Israel, is in total lockdown. Besides watching situation updates on tv I can’t think of anything else than reading books of Patrick White (“Happy Valley”), Knut Hamsun (“Hunger”), and Gerald Murnane (all his books).


        • LOL Moshe, you know more about Goroke than I do. Though I know that general area quite well, if I’ve ever been there it was on my way to somewhere else.
          Now if I may, let me suggest some other ways to avoid cabin fever: if none of my Ten Bookish Things to Do appeal, head on over to … I have signed up to do an Open Learning Course about the Irish Book of Kells through Future Learn because of her suggestions:)


          • Thanks, Lisa, for your suggestion, I will look it over and Ms. Karen’s piece too. I know FutureLearn. Three years ago I completed two online MOOCs courses from the University of Iowa, one was about Walt Whitman’s poems. It was a marvelous experience.
            Yes, Goroke is recently on my mind after I got hooked by Murnane’s uncategorizable writing.


            • Take care, Moshe, I am guessing that living in Israel you have extra worries that we don’t have here in Israel…

              Liked by 1 person

              • I’m afraid you are right, lol. Thanks, Lisa.

                Liked by 1 person

  5. Yay! I wouldn’t have been able to attend this but I can go if they’re going digital. Imagine if some events had greater patronage because of this?!


    • Well, it was on my watch list and I had lined up someone to dogsit for me for an overnight stay… so many wonderful things to do in the valley, #JoysOfRetirement we were going to make a long weekend of it. I was just waiting to see who was on the program.
      Which turns out to be brilliant, lots of really great authors and #Phew nary a misery memoirist in sight! So yes, I’m definitely in.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m fully taking advantage of all these digital events. Living so remote, I usually go to nothing and now I can go to anything on offer.


    • I know, it’s amazing, isn’t it? I’m waiting for the SWF to step up to the plate: if they have a good livestream program, I’ll definitely be buying a ticket.
      BTW What’s happening with your part of the world and closed borders?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Everything seems the same really although the supermarkets are still being stripped bare. Even worse today!
        I am on leave now, doctors orders on account of my asthma and respiratory illness medical history. Staying at home! My adult daughter will shop from here on in.


        • Sensible move. In all the yada-yada about schools being open, it’s always about whether the kids are at risk. But what about the teachers?? Why should they be putting themselves at risk? If I were still working, I’d be torn between looking out for myself i.e. staying home and letting down my colleagues. It shouldn’t have to be like that.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I keep feeling guilty for jumping ship, then I read more news and feel thankful I have such a proactive doctor.


          • And yes, the lack of regard for staff health has been extremely disappointing. Last night was the first I’d heard it mentioned and it was dismissed.


            • It’s been interesting to watch Q&A this week (so much better without the studio audience and their dumb questions) and hear the pros and cons re school closures…

              Liked by 1 person

          • Exactly Lisa. I’ve been thinking about the teachers too, particularly as I have one in the family. He is working tomorrow and Friday this week to take care of the children of essential services workers. I gather 30% of the teachers will be in there each day this week. Who knows next term.


            • I feel for you Sue, and for all the family and friends of people in the profession because it’s an extra worry on top of all the other ones. I am proud of all my colleagues ‘holding the fort’ in spite of their own misgivings, particularly since all the dialogue around this is about teachers being providers of child care and how the health system will fall apart if parents have to stay home because of their children. That really, really rankles with teachers, because we are educators, not a child care service.
              But having said that, I’m thinking of that time in Britain when it was teachers who escorted thousands of frightened and panicky children (like my father and his little brother) to evacuation destinations all over the country. That was ‘not their job’ either, but they stepped up and did it anyway. Who better to handle distressed parents on the railway platform, and the misery of little ones separated from home? Who better to keep the kids settled on the train, and then organised to make their way to the centre where they were to be allocated to a family? Who better to pass on information about the children’s needs to their new family for the duration? And then, worn out with emotion, went back to London alone to face a future without the security of a job? Teachers were the unsung heroes of that time, and I hope someone has written a novel about it!


              • Thanks, Lisa. Agree with all you say about teachers. Complex emotions and priorities we are dealing with now, aren’t we!

                Liked by 1 person

  7. […] you will know, because I’ve posted about this digital festival before that I already have my ticket for the Saturday program.  $35 for the whole day and it’s a […]


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