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Children’s Festival of Moving Stories 2016

The 2016 Children’s Festival of Moving Stories marked some important firsts for the Sydney Writers’ Festival team. It was the first year Russ the Story Bus toured to the regional NSW centres of Bathurst, Mudgee, Orange, Forbes, Dubbo, Gosford and Maitland, and the first year that authors and illustrators joined the Western Sydney and regional tours to give talks about their craft at each school. It was the first year we presented a travelling art exhibition in Western Sydney. And it was my first year as the Head of Children’s and YA Programs.

Our Author Talks and Workshops series at primary schools featured some wonderful authors including R.A. Sprat, Jacqueline Harvey, Mick Elliott, Ronojoy Ghosh and Richard Roxburgh. Richard’s event with Will Kostakis at the Bryan Brown Theatre in Bankstown was one of the highlights of the program. The authors talked about Richard’s new children’s book Artie and the Grime Wave, and Richard revealed the creative process behind his storytelling through a hands-on workshop.

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Similarly, the secondary school series featured some of the very best storytellers in Australia including interstate authors Leanne Hall and Kirsty Murray. The authors spoke on a range of topics, from fantasy to realism and surrealism to gritty real-life scenarios, which inspired one student to remark that ‘this is the best library I have ever been to. The day went so quickly, which is a sign that we must have been enjoying ourselves’.

In 2016, Russ the Story Bus was covered with amazing illustrations from Shaun Tan’s Rules of Summer. Russ visited over 40 schools during November and December with authors and illustrators Dub Leffler, Katrina Nannestad, James Roy, Tony Wilson, Judith Rossell, Tony Flowers, Cheryl Orsini and R.A Spratt. One of my favourite moments of the tour was seeing author Katrina Nannestad dress a primary-aged student as a rat, complete with ears and a tail over his school uniform and then ask him to play dead as part of her storytelling. The kids (and teachers) were in hysterics!

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With the fabulous Russ the Story Bus manager Billy and driver Isaac, as well as illustrator Tony Flowers and author Judith Rossell, Russ toured around regional NSW for two weeks. He visited a wide range of locations, including small regional schools like O’Connell Public School in Bathurst where the whole school turned out to see Russ.

We partnered with WestWords to present a travelling exhibition of illustrations from children’s books, Picture Gallery. Held at the Norman Lindsay Gallery in Faulconbridge and Blacktown library, the exhibition featured illustrations from Tony Flowers, Andrew Joyner, Chris Nixon, Cheryl Orsini, Judith Rossell, Shaun Tan and Liz Anelli.

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The Children’s Festival of Moving Stories has been a wonderful celebration of storytelling – inspiring students across the state to connect to their imaginations through books. It has certainly sowed the seeds of ideas for the Children’s and YA programming in May, which I look forward to sharing with you soon.

– Clare Sawyer, Head of Children’s and YA Programs