The inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival was held in 2013 and was a resounding success. More than 70 writers participated in 38 sessions – half of which were free. In 2014 in collaboration with Newcastle Region Library, the festival added a primary school’s program. Since then, more than 12,000 students have attended festival events in Newcastle and Cessnock thanks to support from the Catfish Foundation and Cessnock City Council.
NWF is now one of the largest regional literary festivals in Australia. In 2020, COVID-19 restrictions led to the cancellation in March of the eighth event. Director Rosemarie Milsom quickly developed a condensed online program, one of the first large-scale arts events to make the transition.
The Festival is overseen by a seven-member board – Kate Robinson (President), Warwick Sommer (Vice President), interim Treasurer (Lyn Thurnham), Jenny Blackford (Secretary), Rosemarie Milsom, Laura Jackel, and David Couri.
A small but dedicated team works hard to present the Festival each year, including Manager Sally Ebert, Production Manager Ewa Ramsey, Volunteer Coordinator Sheree Kable, Social Media Manager Zoe Drew, and Website Manager Miranda Whittle.
The Festival is indebted to its 150 volunteers who welcome audiences and support the presentation of the event.
The Newcastle Writers Festival is a not-for-profit organisation with official DGR status endorsed by the ATO. Donations over $2 are tax deductible, and will help make the festival even more amazing.
“I set out to create an eclectic, welcoming festival that celebrates words and ideas, as well as the depth of local writing talent.”
Rosemarie Milsom wasn’t the first person to wonder why Newcastle didn’t have its own literary festival, but she was determined to do something about it. She was then lucky enough that supporters jumped on board, including founding sponsors City of Newcastle, University of Newcastle and the Newcastle Business Improvement Association.
Rosemarie is a former journalist and spent 20 years working with Fairfax Media in Newcastle and Sydney. She has is an award-winning long-form writer and has also been a columnist and section editor. Since 2016, Rosemarie has worked as a casual presenter with ABC Newcastle and since 2018 she has been part of the national ABC Emergency team. She is a respected interviewer and regularly hosts sessions at other writers’ festivals, as well as special events. She has interviewed Richard Flanagan, Peter Garrett, Julia Gillard, Nigella Lawson, and Leigh Sales.
Rosemarie shares her experience and knowledge with organisations who are establishing new festivals and has assisted Canberra Writers Festival, Blue Mountains Writer’s Festival, and StoryFest.
In 2019, Rosemarie was selected for the Australia Council’s Arts Leaders Program.