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A better world might begin soon

02 Aug 2018

A better world might begin soon Image

By Rhonda Dredge 

Writers deal with painful truths, and the chapel at Mission to Seafarers will open up its doors in August and September so the literary community can have its say about everything from abuse to self harm.

The romantic courtyard, Spanish mission arches and terracotta tiles have overheard many a tale of woe from seafarers arriving in Melbourne over the past century.

Now the Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) will fill up the cloisters with the cries and whispers of a different kind of traveller.

Justin Heazlewood, from Burnie in Tasmania, will perform a mock church service on 2 September to honour his child self.

Justin’s recently-released memoir Get Up Mum is a poignant recount of a year in his life as the only child of a single mum with mental health issues.

Life dealt Justin a bum hand but he has survived and prospered.

Get Up Mum is entertaining and confessional with the young 12 year-old Justin adapting to his mum’s bouts of illness but wishing that one of the voices she heard was his.

The curious and the empathetic will have a chance to help Justin recover by logging into the MWF website and booking a session with him.

An irreverent approach to life marks the Heazlewood style. A previous book Funemployed looked at the sometimes cruel antics of the entertainment industry from the perspective of a struggling performer.

The Mission is in the business of welcoming visitors. Often the chaplain is behind the coffee machine. He makes a mean cappuccino. The sound of children’s voices can also be heard wafting through the Flying Angel room as a seafarer skypes home.

Separation from family is a big issue for the 60,000 seamen and women who arrive in Melbourne after long ocean journeys, says manager Sue Dight.

“We go and pick them up in buses and bring them here. Just having someone to talk to that is not part of the crew helps,” she says. Some have only four hours’ shore leave to offload before they’re on their way.

The MWF will bring a new level of conviviality to the Mission, one of the city’s most evocative spaces in terms of history. The building, designed by Walter Butler in the Arts and Crafts style, is still intact.

Twenty-eight events will be staged over two weekends, including a Better World Starts Here with human rights activists and a free talk with Bulldog footballer turned author Bob Murphy and TV presenter Will Anderson.

Death is a major theme of this year’s festival and it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Festival director, Marieke Hardy, has a dark streak.

There will be several sessions on eulogies, famous last words and “living dyingly”. Comedian Catherine Deveny will talk about her mental health and philosopher Raimond Gaita will speak on facing death truthfully.

There’s a bar at the Mission for those who find it all too much. A better world might begin soon.

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