Imagine it! You are sitting in a televised quiz show and a lot of money hangs on the next question and your answer. You wait with bated breath! “What is the difference between a conference and a festival?” Ah Ha! You smile. You have been to AFCC before and think that you’ve got a handle on it. “A conference is a formal meeting of people within a speciality or subject field whereas a festival is a celebration of diversity often associated with holidays and events.” Applause breaks out and the host smiles. He leans forward and passes over an envelope. “That will give me a free ticket to next AFCC 2013!” you grin.
That is the heart of the matter. The Asian Festival of Children’s Content is firstly a celebration of diversity across Asia where East meets West, North meets South, and Singapore is the hub. This is evident in the speakers, their languages and their careers, their stories as well as awards that are being given. Visitors undertake diverse journeys to get here. Books too travel the globe, being translated into multiple languages. We celebrate the local as much as the global. Let’s look at something of this diversity for 2013! For example, in the Media Summit, Alexander Smith is an expert at translation of English and Japanese across multiple media platforms. Charmain Kwan is Vice-President of Programming the Discovery channel across Asia and the Pacific, Ervin Han is involved in a local production company who “regularly pitches at international media markets” and Marc Checkley, who originally was from New Zealand, has worked in Beijing, UK and now Singapore! If the medium is the message, then the message is all about the transnational.
Secondly, the term “children’s content” seems a strange term at first in that it defies being fixed by a subject speciality. What the term signifies is that story today comes in many guises and that all have value: from traditional storytelling around the fire to that latest application downloaded on a smart phone; from an anecdote shared over a lunch to being huddled around a computer game; from sitting in a quiet space at home reading The Hunger Games series to listening to a friend read aloud in a shared reading class at school; from strumming a guitar whilst singing a lyric to nestling in the dark space of a cinema frightened out of one’s wits by the latest ghost story. We live and are surrounded by narrative; without story, we are nothing. This festival then is an umbrella organisation whereby the creators, the producers and the mediators of stories for children and about childhood can come together and learn from each other. Let’s look at what is special about 2013! For example, Kiran Shah is a professional storyteller who has shared her passion across Asia and in the US and is part of the Parents’ Forum; Lavina Chong is skilled in reader’s theatre and uses music to engage early childhood children will be speaking in the Teacher’s Congress; Nicholas Mark, an Australian, who is speaking at the Writers & Illustrators conference, collaborated with an Indonesian illustrator Bambang Shakuntala to create a fantasy/adventure story written in Bahasa Indonesia; and Malavika PC who is a Workshop facilitator from India, uses theatre and music with Tamil children and, if you look closely at her blurb on the AFCC web page, likes being something of a quiz master too! If there is a common message in AFCC 2013, it is all about transmedia.
If you care then about children (and who doesn’t?) and you specifically care about the type and quality of stories that are told to them that speak of what it is to be, in the vast diversity of Asia in the world, this festival is the place to come. The organisers want to welcome you as an individual within a community.
The quiz master leans forward to the next contestant. “Who wrote Nim’s Island?” The nervous Irishman nimbly leaned forward and whispered, “Arr! Not sure. Must go and find out. Ah’ve hearrrd aboot a festival. When d’we go?” The quizmaster smiled and leant forward.
As a Principal lecturer at the University of Canterbury College of Education, John McKenzie designed and implemented the graduate level Diploma in Children’s Literature. He has many conference papers to his credit and is involved in the development of literacy qualifications in South Africa. He received the Betty Gilderdale Award for services to NZ children’s literature.