The Melbourne Writers Festival is an annual event that celebrates creativity by showcasing new and established authors, songwriters and playwrights from Australia and abroad. This year focuses on the theme "A matter of life and death". The festival encourages community involvement with a number of events such as workshops and book signings.There are also public appearances from the authors themselves which gives the audience an in depth understanding of the reasons behind them putting their stories into print.
I was fortunate enough to attend one such event. An evening with Jimmy Barnes was a candid talk from the rock icon about his impoverished upbringing and his struggles to break the family cycle of violence and alcohol abuse. Hosted by the charismatic music journalist and media personality Myf Warhurst, her rapport with Jimmy made everyone feel comfortable. There were laughs and tears from the audience as Jimmy answered her questions with brutal honesty.
Then there was the music - not from Jimmy but some songs from his childhood and the memories behind them. Artists such as Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Dusty Springfield, Ray Charles and Deep Purple have all been big influences on his career.
Jimmy's books Working Class Boy and Working Class Man tell of his humble beginnings in the mean streets of Glasgow through to his life as an Aussie rock star desperate to escape his demons. They are not pretty. They are raw and confronting. But most of all they are stories of survival and hope.
Jimmy has seen and endured more than most of us will go through in a lifetime but his message is simple: men need to talk. If they are having hardships they are not alone and admitting they need help is the first step to improving their situation. Advice that Jimmy wishes he had taken years earlier.
The Melbourne Writers Festival is currently running until Sunday September 2nd.