Event Recap: Carbon Festival 2012 – Part One

If you know me, you'll know that I've been interning/volunteering with Melbourne's ACCLAIM Magazine for more than a year now, and I'll jump at any chance to be able to stay a few days down in their city. Lucky for me, I was able to do just that when I was there for the CARBON festival, helping out the good people at ACCLAIM Magazine wherever possible.

This time last weekend, I was in Melbourne for this year’s CARBON festival, made possible by the awesome people at ACCLAIM magazine. Yes, I was there working for almost the entire duration of the event, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a blast whilst doing it. I sure learnt a lot too. Here’s a little recap of my time spent there behind the scenes…

The ACCLAIM team went above and beyond for their choices of international speakers and guests this year and honestly, I was just happy to be apart of it. It had been a year since the last time I touched down in Melbourne and seriously, it was just so good to be back there! I love Melbourne.. hehe

A few hours after my flight landed, I headed to the Official Carbon Launch Party and once again, myself and the lovely Mell Hall, took over our duties as door bitches for the second year in a row. Held at Roxanne’s, the venue was much bigger than last year’s and luckily, the crowd kept coming through to fill up the space. The ARC, Dublin Aunts, DJ Neil Armstrong, Party Supplies and Nick Catchdubs were all on the bill for that first night and definitely proved to everyone in attendance why they were there.

I didn’t get to see them play from my position at the door but I heard it. And it was better than good. Mell and I left the party at 1.30am, but from what I heard the next morning, the party and antics went on long after that! Crazy cats.

Next morning kicked off the first official day of the Carbon Festival and although I didn’t get a wink of sleep, I was surprisingly awake. Why? Probably because of all those Red Bulls Mell and I decided to consume at the end of the previous night, but moreso for me, personally, I think it was also because I was pretty excited of all the things that could/would happen over the next 48 hours. And it seemed like I wasn’t the only one that was sleep-deprived.

Ticket holders dragged their tired/hungover/half-asleep selves through the Federation Square for “Forum A: New Media Takeover” with guests Nic Fensom (SNEEZE Magazine), Joy Yoon (The New Order), Eugene Kan (Hypebeast), and Richard ‘Treats’ Dryden (Mass Appeal). This was one of the two forums I wanted to sit in and listen to, so I was very happy to not have to work the morning shift that day.

I sneaked in a little late and missed the beginning of Treat’s presentation but from what I did manage to catch, he did have a few key pieces of advice for those who were there to learn the ins and outs of being a writer/journalist/blogger – which was the running theme of this particular forum from the entire panel – like “People need to know you, they need to know your face and they need to know what you represent”, “Sometimes you need to take risks to garner attention”, “Journalism is important. Be sure to stay in the game”, and “Don’t look at people just through their roles as writers or bloggers. They are the voice of the magazine. We need to listen and take notice [of them]”.

I love that last one. A lot of people nowadays judge us from the title of our roles and positions. But what they really should be doing is getting to know what we can do within those roles and positions. I’m not just talking within the creative field either. This should be applied to every industry out there. I don’t understand why it isn’t.

Anyhow, next up was Nic Fenson of SNEEZE Magazine who pretty much told us his background, how he got to where he was now (none of which was an ‘overnight’ thing), why he chose to publish the magazine unbinded in A3 size (“so that every page can be taken out and pasted onto your wall as a poster”), and his key message? “Content is important”. People tend to forget the importance of this simple statement, but it’s true.

And then it was time to welcome the man that probably all of those in the audience wanted to see, wanted to meet and wanted to learn from: managing director of Hypebeast.com Eugene Kan. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years and have never heard of Hypebeast, you need to head to the aforementioned website NOW, whilst I give you one main statistic of the ever so popular website: 20 million people view their website a month. 20 million! That is pretty much the entire Australian population!

During his presentation, Kan spoke about the company’s strengths (“it shouldn’t be about fame and freebies, you need to have genuine passion”), their strong editorial direction and visual identity, and their early entry into the blogging world (the website was established in January 2006 – “things would be a lot different if we decided to start hypebeast.com now”). Kan is 45 years old and said something that day that really stood out in regards to print staying relevant: “Sell it on quality – make sure you are putting out a quality product working against time.” Oh and one more thing, “make your mark and have your own voice” – that’s the most important thing.

I apologise in advance for this but I am now going to continue my recap of the first forum with an open letter of admiration to my new hero/inspiration Joy Yoon. Having never heard of the woman before Carbon (shame on me), I left the forum with a new found love (not like that) and admiration for her. I have so many notes on her and her presentation that I don’t know where to start but I’ll try and make this as short as I possibly can (but no guarantees). If you don’t know her, google her name. NOW.

Let’s put it this way:
If you want to be a writer, have ever thought of doing so, or just feel like starting a blog, you should get to know Joy Yoon first – she will tell it to you straight. No sugar coating bullshit. Just the truth. As someone who likes to write, Yoon’s talk was the stand-out for me (and I mean, over the whole Carbon event, hers was my favourite). She makes you question everything about why you want to write. And rightfully so.

Yoon is the older version of me (she’s only in her 30s so I’m not too far away). I am not as accomplished as she is, but our backgrounds are very, very similar. Through her writing, she obviously inspires many, but it was her speech that really tugged at my heartstrings, almost leaving me teary at the thought of how similar our pasts were. Asian parents. Unless you’re the child of them, you’ll never understand. She and I have both fought through the stereotypes of Asians ending up as doctors, lawyers or scientists, because that is what our parents hoped for us, and chose to be writers instead. Don’t even ask me to relive the outcome of that conversation.

Overall, Yoon gave an honest and captivating presentation and I was so glad to be in attendance for it! Check out an interview she did recently with Melbourne’s T-Squat here. Awesome read.

“If you want to succeed, you have to be true to yourself. As a writer, you are trying to survive. Writing is a lonely profession. Carrie Bradshaw fucked it up for the rest of us. Just because you’re good at it, does not mean you will have a career of it. What should you expect? Rejection. Happens often. Can’t accept it? Learn to accept it and move on. Give your opinion all the time – even if it sucks. Work on something meaningful and worthwhile. Don’t write about something just because everyone else is writing about it.”

And if you just want some straight-shooting advice, here’s a few of the points I remember from Yoon’s long list. All of which had a point, but these stood out to me:

“Dig deep. Embrace history and change. Find your narrative. Find your voice. Make sure it’s well written. Use spell check. Travel. Gain feedback from editors and other writers. You should ask yourself: why do you write and what are your obligations?

I was working during “Forum B: Commerce of Creativity” so missed out on the likes of Chaz Bojorquez, Faith47, Daleast, and Jasper Wong but I heard it was a fantastic session. Damn. Read about ACCLAIM’s review here.

Afterwards, I stayed back and checked out Jasper Wong‘s first Australian solo exhibition, ‘A Corny Concerto’, and though some of the names (of the pieces) were a little questioning for my liking, his creations were truly impressive. I first met Wong at last year’s Carbon and he is a super nice guy with loads of talent. I was so glad to finally be able to see his work, up close and personal. The detailing on his pieces are so intricate, that if I had the money to spend, I definitely would have spent some cash that night. True story.

Check back later in the week for Part Two.

Photos taken by The 5 to 9 Life and Vo Nam Nguyen of Thirteen Itches.