With the Ubud Writer’s Festival finished up for a another year today,  I caught up with a graphic designer  student from Malang   who spent five days as a volunteer. Andy tells me about his time there as a volunteer.

I knew  about the festival from the  Internet. I applied. I had had to write a bio about  myself. And I sent them my CV. I was short listed and then sent a follow up  email saying I had been accepted.

I volunteered because I wanted to have more experience  by working at a big  event like this. I also wanted to  socialise with other people and meet new friends from other countries and other cities in Indonesia.

I worked five days at the Ubud Writer’s Festival in the art department. I helped the supervisor with small jobs like  setting  up the venue for writers. I was also a  runner. I was also responsible for making sure the schedule ran on time.

I didn’t’ think the entry fee was  too  expensive –US $400 for foreigners and US$80 for locals on a four day pass.  The writers who come  here are famous. I’m not sure if the writers paid their own way here. I don’t think the event would pay their way. They didn’t pay ours.

I’m aware the talk on the 1965 massacre was cancelled. The locals didn’t want a discussion on it. It just didn’t seem right to capitalise on the deaths of Indonesians while the festival was making so much money. It’s a non profit organisation, and I know they have costs. The shirt they gave  in the goodie pack  with the 17 000 Islands of Imagination  logo must have cost them 10 000 Rupiah ( US$ .80). I’m grateful for it. It’s a great souvenir to show my friends back in Java.

I think the festival made money. But they had their own staff. I’m not sure if they were paid. But if they did pay, the daily wage in Indonesia is  50 000 Rupiah or US$5.  Maybe they were given free meals every day as payment.  We weren’t even supplied water.  It was one of the conditions of our contract. “We do not supply meals either,” they stated. Yes, we didn’t mind. As you know, we’re just grateful to be here and part of an international  event.

As I already said, I was so grateful  just to meet famous local and foreign writers. I worked about 12 hours a day. Most night’s I’d be home by 2 am or later.

The Ubud Writer’s festival is good for tourism. As far as I’m aware, many of the writers and guests were encouraged to patron the owner’s three venues. Why not, she needs to make money too. Isn’t that what a Writer’s festival is about?

But it’s not the way I’m going to run mine. I’ve got my ideas now, and I’m going to copy the Ubud Writer’s Festival. That’s enough payment for me.

Now I’ve got a good idea on how to run a festival  I want to set up my own writer’s festival in Malang at my University. The entry tickets will be cheaper and there won’t be any double pricing. I might even make it free entry  and let the sponsors and advertisers cover the costs.

More Reading: Ubud’s Volunteer Army


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