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Somerset Storyfest expands its offerings for a whole new world of storytelling

A group of school children

Natalie O’Driscoll | March 3, 2022

Gold Coast’s Somerset Storyfest has grown from humble beginnings to become a must-do festival on our city’s cultural calendar, and a major organisation in the national literary space.

Previously trading as the Somerset Celebration of Literature, Somerset Storyfest has evolved significantly over the last four years, registering as a cultural organisation and expanding from a children’s writers festival into a literary organisation that hosts an annual calendar of events throughout the Gold Coast and regional Queensland, spreading the love of literature to bookworms far and wide.

Somerset Storyfest CEO and Festival Director Andrea Lewis has taken both the organisation and its flagship festival from strength to strength since her 2003 appointment, with her efforts assisting in developing literacy-based activities throughout the Gold Coast, for children, youth and adults alike.

She discusses some of Storyfest’s key achievements.

“We have a collective of authors which are regular presenters through our Storyfest On The Road programme which sees authors being taken into schools for presentations and workshops – there is a specific focus on providing opportunities for disadvantaged children and regions,” says Andrea.

“Our Little Lending Library initiative connects with local community champions and we have installed over 60 libraries throughout the Gold Coast and Brisbane.

“We also host monthly activation partnering with HOTA, Home of the Arts which supports of local writing community by way of workshops, performances and masterclasses.”

While Andrea has spearheaded the growth of the organisation, it has also been made possible by the efforts of the Storyfest board, an accomplished group with extensive collective experience in the not-for-profit and educational sector, and a shared passion for putting books in to the hands of children.

Combine that with the Somerset Storyfest’s Patron – esteemed historian, author and Australian Children’s Laureate Jackie French – and it’s no wonder the organisation has experienced such growth and success.

Of course, the crown jewel in the annual programme of activations is the three-day Somerset Storyfest Festival in March, which has grown into a packed and varied programme of events for literary lovers of all ages.

Young children looking at books

Andrea says the First Nations program at the 2022 festival is one of the most exciting new additions to this year’s programme.

“This year we have appointed our inaugural First Nations Director – Lann Levinge, who has curated a variety of local First Nations artists to join with us and showcase storytelling through diverse formats,” she explains.

School children get to meet Australian Authors (like Jessica Watson).

“From what is traditionally a literature festival, this year we’re exploring the notion of storytelling in its many forms, whether that be through the written word, performance, art, music or more.”

The popular Long Table Dinner and Literary Lunch will feature authors Pip Williams and Lech Blaine, respectively, while other well-known authors and storytellers featuring in this year’s program include Meredith Costain, Mandy Foot, Thomas Kelly and Jay Kristoff.

Additional events include musically scored storytelling with Gold Coast artist Fletcher Babb, a free community Prologue Party showcasing Australia’s best authors and illustrators alongside magicians, stiltwalkers, lollies and popcorn, and of course a vast array of educational workshops and presentations.

Thanks to generous donations, the Somerset Storyfest festival will also be made available to children in regional and disadvantaged areas.

A group of primary aged school children

“Each year, up to 200 regional children along with approximately 20 local schools (tallying around 1000 children) are given the opportunity to come to the festival, participate in interactive author sessions and meet the authors,” explains Andrea.

“Storyfest has a mission to nurture a love of storytelling and change children’s lives, one story at a time.”

Somerset Storyfest Festival runs from Tuesday 15 to Friday 18 March, see the full program.

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