Byron Bay Writers Festival In Retrospect

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I didn’t get to the Writers Festival this year – but I know the weather was great… Here’s the overview;

As the Byron Bay Writers Festival 2009 takes its place in our memories, organisers extend a heartfelt thank you to sponsors, volunteers, audiences and, of course, the wonderful writers.

Byron Bay showed its most beautiful, sunniest face and the warm words and hot topics were matched with golden August sunshine and intensely blue skies. Audiences lingered to examine the sculpture garden created by Dev Lengjel using the work of local artists and the Art Piece Gallery tent was well patronised, with selected works dressing the marquee stages. The trees were festooned with feathery lovers of literature and sessions were punctuated by the cawing of crows and warbling of magpies.

The Belongil Fields site coped extremely well with the village of marquees and thanks are due to the Splendour in the Grass team who donated truckloads of wood chip to compensate for the lack of afore mentioned grass. Many bemoaned the loss of the lake and grassy knolls that graced our previous Byron Bay Writers Festival location, but once inside the marquees, the feast of panels, conversations and readings was richer than ever.

Highlights? Well the biggest crowds were drawn by Friday’s Opening Address with Geoffrey Robertson holding the audience for an hour without reference to notes, and Saturday’s Statute of Liberty Conversation in which Geoffrey was joined by Kerry O’Brien. Hugely successful was the Ain’t ‘alf hot panel with Cheryl Kernot, Ian Lowe and Anne Summers while numbers for Before Underbelly, joining ex undercover cops Domenico Cacciola and Colin McLaren with Kerry O’Brien, were astronomical. Sides were definitely splitting in Sunday’s Well it cracked me up, where Chair Simon Marnie was floored by the combination of Imran Ahmad, Michael Cathcart, Tom Gleeson and the divine Denise Scott, who captivated listeners everywhere she appeared. For all who were fortunate enough to hear it, Robert Dessaix’s Thea Astley lecture was the triumph of the Festival and his words still resonate deeply in hearts and minds. This was surely the greatest literary moment of the program.

The office that never sleeps is busily wrapping up the accounting and operations of the Byron Bay Writers Festival 2009. Rest assured the program for 2010 is never far from our minds and expect to find dates and venue on the Festival website in the near future.

Be sure to visit their website; www.byronbaywritersfestival.com.au

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