Our favourite children’s literature festival returns for 2021

There’s not one public event that hasn’t had to significantly shift its model in the last 12 months. From virtual yoga classes to socially distanced Santas, the inventiveness that people have shown to keep activities going despite a global pandemic has been remarkable.

Voices on the Coast, one of our favourite events each year, is another that has had to radically adjust its model since COVID hit. Sadly, bustling workshops with hundreds of kids bursting with ideas are not possible right now, but you can always rely on the clever peeps at Immanuel Lutheran College to come up with something equally as exciting for this popular children’s literature festival!

“We were lucky in that Voices on the Coast is held in February, so we had a wonderful 25th celebration in 2020, just before the shutdown happened,” said Kelly Dunham, Event Organiser for Voices on the Coast. “We honestly had no idea what was around the corner at the time!”

Romancing the Stars

One activity at the tail-end of the event is their Romancing the Stars.

“We hold this slightly later, so this was the only part of our 2020 program that was affected. But rather than cancel it, we took it online.”

And the response was better than they imagined.

Run in conjunction with Booklinks in Brisbane, Romancing the Stars is an evening where 16 different authors come to the library at Immanuel Lutheran College and the audience is invited to chat with the authors about their books. “It’s a bit like speed dating, but with authors and literature enthusiasts!” said Kelly.

This format meant that it was perfect for the transition online.

“We had 12 different Australian authors take part,” said Kelly. “Two were even caught up in the border closures overseas – one was in France, and one was in Canada.”

The 2020 evening ended up having 100 guests dial in. “Though many were from Southeast Queensland, we had several from interstate and overseas – Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Victoria, Sydney,” Kelly said. “Our little Sunshine Coast literature festival had managed to reach so many more people!

Students reading books at children's literature festival Voices on the Coast

Voices on the Coast 2021 – a COVID-safe children’s literature festival

With continuing COVID restrictions in place, Voices on the Coast 2021 will be a wholly online event.

“We’ve had 12 months to plan it and to draw on the expertise of others that have already made the COVID-safe transition, so we’ve had the time to put together a fabulous 2021 festival.”

The 2021 program consists of five days of jam-packed online sessions, running from 1st to 5th March.

“Normally we would have 4,500 school kids enjoy 155 events at USC each year, so we’ve had to significantly change our model to ensure we can still reach those kids in 2021 and hopefully even more – via an exciting online program.”

Yep, now the festival isn’t limited by geography, kids, schools and families Australia-wide can enjoy the incredible literature experience of Voices on the Coast.

“It is open to everyone so we hope to have kids from anywhere and everywhere,” said Kelly. “What I’m most excited about is the opportunity to reach those smaller outback towns that might not usually get a visiting author. The kids get to see the author is a real person, ask them questions, find out about what inspired them to write the story – it is such a fabulous way to get kids engaged in children’s literature.”

The online activities are open to individuals, or a teacher can join with the whole class.

Romancing the Stars will also return in the same online format for another year. “I’m excited we have some fabulous authors joining us for Romancing the Stars in 2021!”

More information at www.voicesonthecoast.com.au

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