Words to warm winter

A passion for words: Director of operations Matt Fisher, festival director Maia Irell and creative director Missy Dempsey. Picture: Dylan Burns
A passion for words: Director of operations Matt Fisher, festival director Maia Irell and creative director Missy Dempsey. Picture: Dylan Burns

DAYLESFORD’S annual literary festival has been saved from the possibility of non-existence.

Maia Irell has lived in Daylesford for 10 years. Before that, she worked in the glamorous world of television commercials in Hollywood and New York.

She fell in love with an Australian man, married him, and was swept away from the beaches of Santa Monica to the mineral springs of Hepburn Shire.

Now, Ms Irell has decided it is time to flex her creative muscle once more, taking over the role as festival director for Daylesford’s beloved annual Words in Winter event.

She came at just the right time – with the previous directors no longer able to run the event, it looked as though Words in Winter was destined for oblivion.

“The festival has been going for about 14 years,” Ms Irell said.

“The guy who started it, David Hall, it was his and his late wife’s (event). He’s just beautiful and I had this feeling of wanting to make him feel proud.”

Unfortunately, the zero-budget, totally volunteer-run festival had missed all the grants rounds by the time Ms Irell stepped up. So she had to make some fast decisions in order to get the festival off the ground for 2016.

The first decision she made was to give this year’s festival a theme – Food for Thought.

“We’re in Daylesford, the golden triangle of food, so why not go with the thing that’s the most natural?” she said.

Ms Irell said she wanted to break stereotypes that Daylesford was just a tourist, B&B township.

“It’s to try to bring something great here. It’s like how they have the Sundance Film Festival in America. (Park City) was an obscure little town but then they brought the film festival in and it made everything interesting and better,” she said.

Words in Winter will be held August 5 to 7, mainly at the festival hub at 81 Vincent Street, featuring high-profile writers such as Arnold Zable and Cate Kennedy. 

For more information and this year’s program, visit www.wordsinwinter.com