Thursday, July 4, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

A Creative Mind Jess Begun, Patron Of Whitsundays Writers Festival

by Festival Vice President, Melinda Louise Hutchings
After a seven-year hiatus, the Whitsundays Writers Festival will be making a triumphant return 6-8 September, promising an immersive celebration for writers, readers, and thinkers alike, and a stellar line-up of Australia's leading literary figures.
The Patron of the Festival, Jessica Begun, is already known to many in the community due to her ongoing and steadfast commitment to promoting and expanding the Arts in the Whitsundays region over several years.
“I feel honoured to be serving as the Patron of this year’s renewed Whitsundays Writers Festival,” Jessica said.
“The Festival has succeeded beyond my wildest imaginings in featuring leading Australian writers in stimulating and interactive events that both celebrate and create valuable opportunities for aspiring writers, and of course, avid readers.”
Jessica’s love affair with the Whitsundays began in 1991 when she arrived in Australia on her sailboat with her husband and two sons. After spending two years sailing across the Pacific from Boston to Australia, Jessica and her family spent several months exploring the east coast and fell in love with the beauty of the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef.
The following year, Jessica and her family immigrated to Australia and berthed their boat at Hamilton Island Marina. After purchasing land in 1995 and building the Cape Gloucester Eco Resort in 2001, which they sold in 2008, they lived in Maleny on the Sunshine Coast for 20 years before moving permanently to Cape Gloucester in 2015.
“I have been very fortunate to have been able to pursue a creative life starting as a potter in Norway in 1973 and culminating in my Master of Fine Arts from QUT Academy of the Arts in directing,” Jessica said. “I participated in theatre, ceramics, and painting in Massachusetts in the 80s, as well as film making and working in arts events in Maleny including the Woodford Fire Event, the Maleny Film Society, Maleny community radio, and the Real Food Festival.”
Jessica was settling into retired life at Cape Gloucester when she met Cathy Knezevic, the exhibition officer at Artspace in Mackay, in 2019. Keen to create an arts festival, Cathy suggested they combine their skills and as a result, the inaugural Whitsundays Arts Festival launched in September 2020.
Tragically, Cathy had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer when Jessica received news of their success in gaining funding for the inaugural Arts Festival. The second and third festivals in 2021 and 2022 continued to expand the event with the inaugural Songwriter Festival, Arts Prize Exhibition, a focus on multicultural performance and stories, and a film screening at the new Proserpine Entertainment Centre. Cathy continued to battle cancer and lived to enjoy the second festival with her whole family, and her legacy lives on through Jessica’s continued dedication to expanding the arts in the Whitsundays region.
“Festivals provide the best opportunities for our creative community to celebrate the arts and meet other like-minded artists in the community,” expressed Jessica. “I encourage you to come to many of the exciting events planned over the three- day writers festival as possible.”

WHAT: Whitsundays Writers Festival
WHEN: 6-8 September  

Co-founder of Whitsunday Arts Festival, Jess Begun, announced as patron of upcoming Whitsundays Writers Festival. Photo supplied

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