David Williamson and Marieke Hardy – Men of Letters

David Williamson

In 2009 at the National Young Writers’ Festival in Newcastle, two women found themselves so inspired by the female writers that a seed was planted. What followed was the series of events called Women of Letters: an afternoon of wine, music and most importantly, celebrating the lost art of letter writing.

The talented gals behind these unequalled occasions are writer/radio host Marieke Hardy (You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead) and writer/columnist Michaela McGuire (Apply Within). “I’m a bossy only child so I like doing front of house and the organising,” Hardy explains to me, “while Michaela is so great up on stage. We are a happy team.”

The first event was at Bella Union, Trades Hall in Melbourne but quickly outgrew the grounds, so Hardy and McGuire used it as an opportunity to move to a bigger space and kick off the more sporadic Men of Letters events. Now Sydneysiders will get the chance to hear ten men read their letters to the, “woman who has changed my life”. The impressive mixed bag of readers includes George Negus, Lindsay ‘the Doctor’ McDougal, David Williamson, Steve Cannane and Rhys Muldoon.  “We curate it so there are men from different backgrounds,” Marieke explains. “The topic is the same so everyone is going to come at it from a very unique angle. Our events are scandalous, moving, strange, warm – that’s what you get by a group this diverse and that’s what is exciting.”

I also got the chance to chat with iconic playwright David Williamson. “My wife is a forerunner for this letter but my mother was also a strong influence,” he explains. “I’ll have to think about it before I put pen to paper. And that’s the interesting part about it; you really have to search your own life and be absolutely truthful about who it was and why. I’m not terribly self-reflective and I prefer to reflect on other people’s behaviour, but I’ll have to break that habit and instead scour my own life to find out what were the crucial changes of my life.”

Even though reading out letters publicly could change the true nature of the task and have readers censoring themselves, past shows indicate otherwise. “Some are more self-reflective and honest than we could have ever imagined,” Hardy says. “We are humbled by how raw people are with revealing things on stage with issues they’ve never spoken about before. For some people it’s letting go which is why we don’t video them or podcast them because we want these intensely personal letters to exist in that special moment or in the written word on the page and that’s it. It doesn’t exist in any other way.”

Published in Sydney City News online and in print on October 10, 2011

Marieke Hardy

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