June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Several months ago I was invited to participate in a one-day festival called “The Ink of Light Baha’i Writers’ Festival” held in May in Brisbane, Australia, about an hour from where I currently live. Unfortunately I was overseas at the time, but I was so excited to hear about this initiative, as it’s the first I’d ever heard of such a festival. As an avid reader and as the editor of Baha’i Blog where we publish thousands of posts and articles, writing is definitely something I’m passionate about!
“The Ink of Light Baha’i Writers’ Festival” was the brainchild of Brisbane photographer and author, Ian Hallmond, and I heard so many great things about the festival. When I returned to Australia, I met up with Ian to find out more about the initiative:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Ian, can you tell us a little bit about the “Ink of Light Baha’i Writers’ Festival” and what it’s all about?
The “Ink of Light Baha’i Writers’ Festival” is a one-day festival held in Brisbane, Australia, and its main focus is to provide a platform for promoting Baha’i principals through encouraging and inspiring writers within the community. The festival draws together Baha’i writers from across all genres and experience. It allows that opportunity for like-minded people in the community to come together and connect, not only as Baha’is, but also as writers. This was our very first festival, and we had 40 participants attend.
Baha’i Blog: What motivated the initiative and why did you decide to take it on?
The concept of a writers’ festival was an idea that kept floating through my mind over the past couple years. I was never sure of how to go about organising such an event, so I would often discard the idea and put it out of my mind. But it always came back further prompting me, and it was around this time that I met Baha’i author Michael Day at his Journey to a Mountain book launch.
We both found we shared a similar enthusiasm for a Baha’i writers’ festival. So over the next few months we discussed the feasibilities of holding such an event, and it was in this early stage that I came upon the name for the festival, taken from The Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah: “O Son of Man! Write all that We have revealed unto thee with the ink of light upon the tablet of thy spirit.” It was interesting that once a name had been chosen, it appeared to give the project a sense of reality, a sense of purpose. This phrase alone infused a great energy into the festival. I think in the sense that writers are bestowed with a capacity to communicate and for Baha’i writers in particular, it is a blessing to be able to use that gift, that ability, in serving and promoting Baha’i ideals. And it was in that spirit that I was greeted when I contacted writers to participate. The enthusiasm was overwhelming, and in a sense, the concept of the festival became very organic and, to a large extent, a joint initiative.
The enthusiasm expressed was electrifying and this kept me focused, plus I was very fortunate to have Derek Bland and Linda Shallcross come on board and offer assistance with the organising of the Festival.
I never contemplated the festival not being successful. In my heart I always felt this initiative was being driven by a higher power, so it was all just a matter of knowing when to step back and let it naturally evolve and find its balance.
Baha’i Blog: So can you tell us what the programme for the day looked like?
The day programme was divided into 10 sessions with presenters Boris Handal and Michael Day speaking on creating well-researched history books. Melanie Lotfali and Alan Manifold introduced the concept of writing Baha’i focused fiction, and June Perkins discussed the inspiration that comes from writing groups, and how writing is a bridge of understanding and connection. Michael Cohen, Les Endrei and Peter Warner shared a discussion on self-publishing and Baha’i distribution. Fazel Naghdy spoke on the spiritual education of youth. And both Linda Shallcross and Derek Bland ran very inspiring workshops on the creative process. Finally I gave a presentation on the relationship between the Baha’i Faith and the advent of photography.
Baha’i Blog: Can you share some of the highlights from the day?
It was a great honour to actually meet the presenters in person, many of whom I met for the first time, and for me this was one of the highlights. But I would also have to say the general ambiance of the day was its own highlight. From the very start the energy was one of warmth and fellowship, a potent mix.
So what do you think the participants walked away with after the festival?
Writing can be a solitary affair, so for many participants the festival provided the opportunity for Baha’is sharing a similar interest and craft to come together; writing is the bridge of understanding and connection. The overwhelming consensus from the participants was the festival was very successful, and with both a diverse and inspiring programme, everyone came away sufficed both mentally and spiritually.
Baha’i Blog: So what are the plans for the future of the festival?
There was certainly a strong interest expressed in holding more writers’ festivals in the future. And Australia is fortunate to have so many talented writers in the Baha’i community, so I can see the festival having a prosperous future. I tend to think that in the future, the festival will expand and cover a broader spectrum of topics and genres. Personally I would like to see more from writers on social justice issues.
Baha’i writers are in a good position to assist with the worldwide advancement of the Baha’i Faith and the whole world, and should never underestimate the power of the pen. To quote Lord Byron, “A drop of ink may make a million think.”
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Ian, and a big congratulations to you and all those who helped make the festival happen! I can’t wait to attend the next one, and I hope this article will inspire others to think about the possibility of doing something similar in their area.
Find out more about the “Ink of Light Baha’i Writers” Festival’ held in Brisbane, Australia here on Facebook.
Naysan is passionate about using the arts and media to explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Back in 2011, Naysan started up the Baha’i Blog project, channeling his experiences in both media and technology companies to help create a hub for Baha’i-inspired content online.
Diana Threlfo (August 8, 2018 at 12:28 AM)
I would like to attend your next writers’ Festival. I live in Japan.
Please notify me of the date of the next meeting.
T J Riggins (August 8, 2018 at 11:49 AM)
I have started on organizing the next Ink of Light Baha’i Writers’ Festival which will be held in Brisbane Australia. I have as of yet to lock-in a date. Though more than likely it will be the 18th of May 2019.
I hope that you will be able to attend.
Ian Hallmond (August 8, 2018 at 1:31 AM)
Thanks for publishing this interview! So nice to authors who are Baha’is able to gather and share!
Kimberlee J Benart (August 8, 2018 at 8:19 PM)
You’re most welcome, Kimberlee!
Sonjel Vreeland (August 8, 2018 at 11:13 PM)
Thanks so much for your message and encouragement Kimberlee! 🙂
Naysan Naraqi (August 8, 2018 at 9:11 PM)
I am truly surprised at how many writers, poets and authors there are in the Baha’i community.
Ian Hallmond (August 8, 2018 at 1:36 AM)
Your words that ‘Writing can be a solitary affair’ are so true! I would have loved to attend, but contented myself with reading about it instead. I hope it becomes a regular event.
Patricia Wilcox (August 8, 2018 at 8:23 PM)
Thanks so much for your message Patricia and yes I hope it becomes a regular event as well! I spoke to Ian again and they’re going to try and do another one next year. Hope to see you there! 🙂
Naysan Naraqi (August 8, 2018 at 9:12 PM)
It is always good to touch base with a another Kiwi. I also hope that the writers festival can become an annual event. I am working on the pre-planning stage for the next festival to be held on the 18th May 2019 and hopefully we may see you there.
Ian Hallmond (August 8, 2018 at 1:48 AM)
Ian, can you give us the details for the planned event in May, 2019?
Aaron Blomeley (April 4, 2019 at 1:58 AM)
Hi Aaron! The details for this year’s Ink of Light festival can all be found here: https://inkoflight.org/media
Naysan Naraqi (April 4, 2019 at 3:01 AM)