"I wouldn't know how to do conventional"

For years, Marieke Hardy was a splash of colour on ABC TV's 'The Book Club'
For years, Marieke Hardy was a splash of colour on ABC TV's 'The Book Club'

Marieke Hardy grew up with words.

They cushioned and surrounded her – she heard them from her ‘cantankerous, brilliant, verbose’ grandfather Frank, her eccentric comedienne great aunt Mary and her parents, Alan and Galia, both of whom were writers, producers and editors.

“I guess we are all a product of our upbringing and mine was filled with politics and books and wonderful people, all vivid and incredible,” Marieke tells me enthusiastically from the airport lounge in Sydney.

“I used to listen to Frank arguing with Fred Hollows, I met Nana Mouskouri, whom he (Frank) was dating, Bob Ellis was a dear friend and became like a replacement grandfather to me.

“I remember Frank would get so immersed in writing that he would boil the kettle dry.”

She says that writing and reading were a ‘big click’ for her from the age of about eight.

“I have that outsider blood in me and, like my great aunt, I do shoot my mouth off … I did that especially when I was younger. I was trying lots of different hats on … it’s all part of growing up.”

Those different hats have always included words – in newspapers, in television scripts, on television and in theatre. So many forms, always playful and often very irreverent.

In recent years she has become more private, working anonymously in live art and immersive theatre.

“In 2015 I was awarded the Sidney Myer Fellowship ($160,000), which allowed me to expand my exploration of the media.

“Working without my name attached has been the most beautiful thing. It has allowed me to make art without the pressure of expectation.”

In August last year her appointment as Artistic Director of the annual Melbourne Writers Festival (Aug 24 to Sept 2) was announced.

“We locked the program in last week. There are 300 events and it’s certainly different … I wouldn’t know how to do conventional!”

But before that festival takes that city by storm, Marieke is coming to Bellingen, bringing her passion for books and words to our Readers and Writers Festival.

“Community festivals like this are so important … they bring readers and writers together and are an opportunity to celebrate words.

“That is something that is beautiful and necessary – the world is hard and it is lovely to have these gently empathetic moments.”

Marieke will be appearing in sessions on Saturday and Sunday at noon, and with writers Jesse Blackadder and JM Donnelan on a panel, chaired by myself, discussing Fiction: The Novel in the Time of Digital on Sunday at 4pm.

The Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival is on the June Long Weekend – June 8-10. Tickets are on sale at www.bellingenwritersfestival.com.au