UWRF 2010: Just the Venue, Not the Ambience?

By Hector

It might seem a reasonable question to put to the organisers of this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. They seem to be in Melbourne, where the publicists reside, and Umalas, from where the energetic Bali-based but otherwise chiefly elsewhere-focused social media outfit water&stone operates. (It does so very well, incidentally.)

UWRF 2010 is themed Bhinneka Tunggal Ika: Harmony in Diversity, a quotation from an ancient Javanese poem (and not without coincidence, Indonesia’s national motto). Its sponsors are off-island, including all its media sponsors. Just after last year’s festival The Bali Times put a 2010 sponsorship proposal to Janet de Neefe, founder and chief functionary, after last year’s festival. She said she’d get back to us.

UWRF’s 15 “emerging Indonesian writers” selected for appearance at the festival include no Balinese. We asked to see the list of 105 applicants – we wanted to see if any Balinese had applied – but this was not possible; applicants, apart from those who make the cut, are confidential.

There are some reasonable established authors listed as participants, but not a major headline among them. And the star attraction appears to be Kate Adie, the yesteryear BBC specialist in look-at-me-I’m-in-the-line-of-fire reportage. News as voyeuristic entertainment, presented as the ultimate reality TV show, has no real function and little appeal to the sentient.

We think an annual literary festival for Bali is a great idea. But maybe the UWRF is getting a little off track, off message and off the point.

It’s enough to make one want to go to a bar and cause an affray.

And No Mandolins

There was a tale around a little while ago that British writer Louis de Bernières would be a presence at this year’s UWRF. It was either that – a tale – or perhaps what those in the publicity trade know as a balloon, something that is sent aloft to attract notice when there’s nothing else to say, because the list of participants now circulated does not include him.

That’s a shame, because otherwise he might have been quite interesting on his 2008 novel A Partisan’s Daughter. It’s more introspective than much of his work – and certainly more dour than his signature piece, Corelli’s Mandolin (also published as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, as which it was also made into a movie) – but more thought-provoking as a result.

Just the trick for a navel-gazing exercise, we’d have thought.

Stand By for Chaos

There was a little news item in last week’s print edition of The Bali Times that would have brought a grimace to many faces. It said that work on the proposed flyover at Simpang Siur would commence next year so that it would be complete in time for the APEC jamboree at Nusa Dua in 2013.

The work is essential, of course. But it’s the two years of total chaos and additional traffic delays that comes first that will be the immediate problem.

Allow an additional two hours to get from anywhere south of the airport to anywhere north of the airport in the interim.

Caring Nation

Tourism doyenne Tuti Sunario, who puts out the useful and interesting Indonesia Digest update, had some interesting data in her latest digest about what makes Indonesians tick. Among Asia Pacific countries surveyed by the Neilsen organisation, Indonesian consumers stand out for caring most about the education of their children and the well being and happiness of parents. Neilsen’s consumer research executive director in Indonesia, Catherine Eddy, said the survey showed 14 percent of Indonesian consumers surveyed for the latest study cited their children’s education and wellbeing as their chief concern over the next six months, significantly higher than the average of 9 percent among Asia-Pacific consumers as a whole.

Similarly ahead of the pack, 13 percent said their chief concern was the wellbeing and happiness of their parents. This compares with the 4-percent average among all Asia-Pacific consumers, most of whom cited the economy as their chief concern. The first concern among most Indonesians is to find a balance between work and daily living.

The survey also found that in the first quarter of 2010, 70 percent of Indonesians surveyed – on the internet – were very positive about their jobs, much higher than the average Asia-Pacific consumers, who registered 57 percent.

Original Imagery

Australian indigenous culture is being celebrated in Jakarta to mark the annual NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islanders’ Day Observance Committee) Week from July 4-11. The Australian embassy is staging a photographic exhibition by one of Australia’s most prominent Aboriginal photographic artists, Wayne Quilliam, among other artistic expressions of the rich indigenous culture of the country.  

Every year Australia celebrates NAIDOC Week as a way of promoting greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their culture. It is also a celebration of their people’s contributions to modern Australia. This year celebrates the theme of Unsung Heroes, acknowledging those who have made a significant but humble contribution to their community behind the scenes.

Contact between Australian Indigenous people and Indonesians dates back at least to the 16th century, when Makassan traders and fishermen first visited northern Australia. They traded frequently and this interaction is still recorded and celebrated today in the music and dance of the Indigenous northern language groups.

The Quilliam exhibition runs at Antara Journalistic Photo Gallery until July 18 (it opened on July 5). Films and other presentations are also on the programme.

Lateral Thinking

Strategic Airlines, the new Australian player on the Perth-Bali route, has some big plans that prove the power of lateral thinking. From August 3, subject to regulatory approval, it will be flying to Bali from Port Hedland in Western Australia, bringing our island within two hours’ reach of the rich mining and resource industry workforce in the north of WA.

And it will tie this in with the first full-service transcontinental flights from Brisbane on Australia’s east coast to Port Hedland, providing people from the populous south-east Queensland area with a same-day, one stop service to Bali. Initially it will be a weekly service, on Tuesdays, but the airline says it plans to introduce a second flight, on Saturdays, from September.

Until now the money-to-spend workforce in WA’s north-west has had to fly south to Perth before heading north to Bali for some well-earned R&R. And Brisbane, while nowadays serviced by both Jetstar (via Darwin) and Virgin’s Pacific Blue direct, has been devoid of Garuda service since the notional airline had to “restructure” (cut) its network some time ago, after finding its plan to forget about making aircraft lease payments didn’t work. Some rather more productive lateral thinking on the part of our notional airline would also be in order.

Let There Be Light

One of your diarist’s favourite memories is of his initial repositioning flight – from London but originating, via a short break, from Africa – to Australia in 1971. What amazed on that occasion was that no lights were seen between leaving Singapore and arriving in Perth; and precious few then. It was surreal. It was also 2am in Perth, so of course most of the good burghers of that ville were abed. Presumably the bad burghers were nefariously up to things without the benefit of visible light.

This memorable and slightly discomfiting occasion was recalled last week, when The Diary flew southwards to Perth aboard a Strategic Airbus A320, leaving Bali in the dark. This time, however, there were lights, not only in Perth but also, brightly, around the big oil and gas conurbations that have sprung up en route in the intervening 39 years. It’s amazing what a bit of time can do.

Simply Chilling

One of the best reasons for living in Bali is that you don’t get cold, unless – like The Diary – the faux chill of a June or July evening daringly spent in the bale out by the pool gives you the shivers. It’s pretty radical when the mercury dips below 25C.

One theory long held by your diarist, drawn from several wasted decades of weather sampling around the globe, is that unusual climatic occasions are designed to follow him. Thus with a trip to Perth (and even further south towards all that horrible Antarctic ice): on arrival on June 30 it was to a city that had just marked its longest cold spell in 13 years.

Of course, all these things are relative. Some people we know would swoon in the heat of a 3C winter night. But they don’t live in Bali, poor things.

Your diarist will be back in Bali, and warm again, this weekend.

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