You Are Here: Burley’s First Birthday


The first event I went to for the You Are Here (YAH) festival was Burley’s First Birthday. Burley is a literary journal for writers in the Canberra region that produces bound professionally constructed booklets a few times a year.

Details of the event are here. I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of Burley before, I’d never read any of their issues either. I’d been to the book store in question once and I’d actually bought a book while there. So this event was a bit of a cultural awakening for me.

My very own photo from the event...

My very own photo from the event…

Without further ado, here is my review:

The best birthday wishes for Burley.

Many city-goers have probably walked past, sipped coffee near, or eaten delicious food next to Smiths Alternative Bookshop. Located on Alinga Street in the city centre, it is nestled neatly away, much like most prized reading nooks.

As I entered Smiths, the little book nerd in me stood up and took notice. A smattering of genres, styles and mediums of all things writerly and readerly adorned the walls. With this child-like glee, I took up residence at a small round table near the food and beverages and watched as this cozy little store made room for all who came. The table of party food and bubbly, coupled with the sporadic application of balloons, gave the event a birthday feel. The only things missing were the cake and silly hats.

Soon, more and more people crowded in through the front door to help celebrate the Canberran literary journal’s first year in the world. Copies of the new third issue attracted people like a beacon. Soon, a hodgepodge of personal style and culture collided in a mix of literary expression. The lineup of writers came together to share samplings of their birthdays past, or creations of their subconscious.

To begin the show, Raphael Kabo swiftly carried away the audience in an awe-inspiring reading of his birthday tale entitled Bushfire. Raphael was entrancing and his use of metaphors honestly transported listeners right back there with him, to the day of the Canberra bushfires, the day of his second 11th birthday party.

Burley took a leaf out of Willy Wonka’s book and placed golden tickets inside some of their new issues, a poem written, and this night recited, by a natural-born performer – Monica Caroll. She took us on a rather sensual ride, introducing us to the heart-fluttering art that is writing.

The night was brought to a close by Nigel Featherstone, who has his piece of fiction The People At The Gates published in this issue. Nigel regaled us with tales of his move from Canberra to Goulburn, his abattoir-working neighbours, and the impact (a good one he assured us) that his new home has had upon his writing. He left the crowd wanting more, but darted off to mingle upon reaching the end of his excerpt.

A+ from me, You Are Here Festival, a welcome introduction to what I’m sure will be ten days of Canberra’s best alternative art and underground culture.

Have you ever reviewed an event? If so, which one/s? Did you find it easy to capture the feel of the event?

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6 thoughts on “You Are Here: Burley’s First Birthday

  1. Well done! It must have been a great day – I love Smiths Bookshop and wandered around there happily for hours when I lived in Canberra 😀

  2. Sounds like a fun day and very well reported!

  3. Nice sense of atmosphere!

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