• L to R: Marieke Hardy and Angie Hart will present the Women of Letters event in Sydney for the Antidote festival. (Antidote Sydney)
One of most anticipated events of the Antidote festival, 'Women of Letters', shows us how honest letter writing can reveal emotion, sisterly solidarity, and a strong dose of human connection.
By
Dilvin Yasa

28 Aug 2017 - 1:47 PM  UPDATED 28 Aug 2017 - 1:53 PM

Are you a fan of keeping letters? Keeping those dog-eared, tissue-soft missives of yesteryear filled with longing, angst and the kind of truth that can only be given oxygen in your heart of hearts?

I only ask because with two young (and incredibly inquisitive) daughters, I think I’m erring towards ‘torch everything before you die and they discover everything you didn’t want them to know’. Angie Hart – also a mother to a young daughter, and now, forever my own personal Yoda – believes otherwise.

“Nooo!” she laughs as we chat over the phone. “Everyone’s got at least one of those letters they can never say goodbye to – you have to keep at least one or two because they are the truth, they convey to the world who we really were or are.” I don’t tell Hart that’s what I’m afraid of, because Hart firmly believes that not only should we all be holding onto such letters, but that there will be resurgence in the art of letter-writing - a massive one-fingered salute to what passes as modern-day connectivity in the age of Facebook Happy Birthday messages and ‘DTF?’ texts.

I had to look up what that means of course, but when I mention it to Hart, I can hear her eyes roll from across state lines. “See? Everything is so disposable these days!” she says. “Where is the romance of waiting to receive a letter from a loved one, or the agony of wondering what someone will think when they receive yours? Nope, I’m digging my heels in on this one.”

“Everyone’s got at least one of those letters they can never say goodbye to – you have to keep at least one or two because they are the truth, they convey to the world who we really were or are.”

It’s probably just as well Hart – who is best-known to Australian audiences as the lead singer of 90s band Frente – is passionate about the art of letter writing. On Saturday 2 September, she’ll be co-hosting (along with Marieke Hardy) a one-night only Women of Letters event at Antidote: a festival of ideas, art and action, which builds on the ground-breaking Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The literary phenomenon – a movement which invites renowned artists, performers, actors and entertaining to write a letter to a particular theme – will be held in Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall, and the event’s storytellers will feature Sarah Blasko, Tasma Walton, Jean Kittson and Amad Awad penning letters to the theme ‘A Letter to the Time I Was Brave’.

Although Hart replaced co-founder Michaela McGuire as host and co-curator last year, she’s been part of the movement since its very first event – although probably best not to remind Hart of that particular evening. “It was a complete car accident,” she says. “I read a letter addressed to ‘The Night I’d Rather Forget’ badly to a sold-out room and it was horrific.”

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Not horrific enough to stay away however; Hart was enamored by the love and support between women at these events that she anchored herself instead. “The evenings can be quite emotional and I do cry frequently – many of us do – but I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have a space where we can talk openly about the issues no one else is willing to address such as terminal illness and loves lost,” she says. As for which letter made her cry the most, Hart doesn’t even need a moment to think. “There was one woman who’d written to the uterus she’d had removed so that was really something.”  

As our conversation comes to a close, I ask Hart if she’s still keen on writing letters in her personal life, or are they simply memories stored in a box, scant remains of a life well-lived many moons ago? Hart thinks this question over carefully before answering. “I  wish you could speak to Marieke about this because there’s no one more passionate about sending and receiving letters,” she says as she tells a story of how Hardy often purchases stacks of postcards and sends them out to stranger she finds through White Pages. “Often she’ll write lovely affirmations such as ‘You’re amazing!’ and ‘You’ve got this!’ but she’s had to have a little coaching to make sure they don’t seem creepy to the people receiving them out of the blue!,” she laughs.

“The evenings can be quite emotional and I do cry frequently – many of us do – but I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have a space where we can talk openly about the issues no one else is willing to address such as terminal illness and loves lost.”

Compared with Hardy, she’s more of a ‘traditionalist’, she admits. “When I was touring, I spent a lot of time working things out on a page and sending letters to loved ones I knew would always have my back,” she says, adding that she still loves writing and receiving letters. “I think we’re all going to get back into it – this disconnect cannot last forever.” She says it with such conviction, you cannot help but believe her.

Women of Letters will feature as part of Antidote on Saturday 2 September at 9.15pm at Sydney's Opera House. 

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