Kids’ fest inspires creativity

Rosemary Sorensen | Bendigo Weekly | 16-Feb-2012

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OUT OF THE ORDINARY: Lisa D’Onofrio, organiser of the Castlemaine Children’s Literature Festival – the next one will be held in October.
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When Lisa D’Onofrio rolled up her sleeves and threw herself into organising a Children’s Literature Festival in Castlemaine, she hoped for a decent turn-up.
It had taken all her persuasive powers, a bucket-load of patience, truck-loads of time and an enormous pile of energy to make it happen.
When she parked her bike discreetly behind Buda, the historic home in Castlemaine’s Hunter Street, and set up her table and chair ready to welcome participants, she hoped all that effort was about to pay off.
“I just love seeing kids getting into books,” Lisa said.
“It’s not about the kids sitting and listening to someone talk about their book, it’s more about them being creative producers themselves.
“I knew this was a good thing to do, and there is nothing like this during school holidays so I wanted to give it a go.”
Give it a go she did, and when 950 children turned up, about a third of them coming from Melbourne with their families to take part, Lisa was proved right.
Lisa is a newbie to the Goldfields. She moved into Castlemaine two years ago with her husband (who, among other things, does palmistry for a living) and two children.
She had worked for many years in the UK, developing skills in literacy development.
When she returned to Australia, eager to apply her skills here, she discovered that regional Australia is often left out of community development programs focusing on culture and literature.
“Regional kids don’t get as much as kids in the city,” she said.
“When we were in the UK, it was all around, you were steeped in culture, but here, there are not so many opportunities.”
A poet herself, Lisa is also keen on finding ways to inspire people to write for themselves.
Before the Festival in October last year, she worked with artists from Windarring, the Castlemaine-based support service for people with disabilities, to create an Alphabet Book.
She also teamed up with Simmone Howell for a Book Swap and Make session, where children made stories and poems using recycled materials.
“I deliberately scheduled the festival during the school holidays, because that’s when there’s a real need,” she said.
“So I aimed for something out of the ordinary, but still really accessible.”
Lisa is now working on the second Castlemaine Children’s Literature Festival, in October, following the inaugural Bendigo Writers Festival in August.
Anonymous commented on 17-Feb-2012 02:46 PM5 out of 5 stars
great idea - castlemaine is lucky to have someone with this kind of intelligence and commitment
Johan commented on 25-Feb-2012 01:23 PM5 out of 5 stars
Fantastic festival Lisa. We Came to Castlemaine for the launch day and ended up staying longer. My children had a great time and especially enjoyed the song writing workshop with Dan Warner.

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