Getting back to nature at Byron Writers Festival

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‘The poetry of earth is never dead.’ – John Keats

Nature has inspired writers, philosophers, artists and musicians throughout history. Our rapidly changing relationship to the environment and the place nature has in our art and lives are key topics that will be explored at Byron Writers Festival this year.

‘It is important to offer a forum for discussion and debate about the critical environmental problems currently impacting the world community,’ says Festival Director Edwina Johnson. ‘It’s a fitting subject for this beautiful, coastal location that is home to an engaged community passionate about environmental issues and our natural surroundings.’

Festival favourite, former Greens Senator Bob Brown, will return to take us on a journey deep into Australia’s untamed spaces with Green Nomads: Across Australia’s Wild Heritage with his partner, Tasmania’s first Greens local government councillor, Paul Thomas.

Think

Bob Brown, along with Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty and leading human rights lawyer David Manne, will tackle the hard questions in Environmental Rights: A Human Rights Issue, chaired by Anne Summers.

On Festival Friday The World of Animals will bring together cartoonist and philosopher Michael Leunig, author Ceridwen Dovey (Only the Animals) and Briohny Doyle (This Island Will Sink). Leunig will also be discussing his life’s work with Sydney Morning Herald literary editor Susan Wyndham at a special off-site Feature Event at Byron Theatre on Friday 5 August, 6pm ($30 tickets here – be quick, selling fast)

Create

For more than 20 years, Wendy Whiteley has worked to create a public garden at the foot of her harbourside home in Sydney’s Lavender Bay. Listen to the extraordinary story on Festival Friday of how a determined, passionate and deeply creative woman has slowly transformed an overgrown wasteland into a beautiful sanctuary for everyone to enjoy – and in the process, transformed herself.

On Festival Sunday, Whiteley will join prominent architect Peter Stutchbury and philosopher and authorDamon Young to discuss Creating Sacred Spaces, chaired by Gold Walkley Award winning journalistJanet Hawley.

Indira Naidoo offers food for thought in the The Edible City: Grow, Cook, Share session. She shares the experiences that informed her bestselling book, The Edible Balcony and offers some great tips for gardening in small spaces.

On Festival Sunday Naidoo joins Peter Doherty and former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer to talk about safeguarding future generations from famine in Food Security: Seeding the Future.

Surf

Head over to Lennox Head Cultural & Community Centre on Festival Saturday to hear Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan discuss surfing with former Trackseditor Sean Doherty.

Be sure to drop in on beach aficionado and author of The Beach Robert Drewe with local author, Russell Eldridge on Festival Sunday.

Walk

Former politician John Faulkner, internationally best-selling author Cheryl Strayed and Damon Younggather on Festival Saturday for a lively discussion on the highs and lows of walking. Faulkner has completed a series of treks for Oxfam and Strayed’s 1100-mile solo trek from the California-Mexico border to Canada was captured in her memoir Wild, which was adapted to the feature film starring Reese Witherspoon.

Act

As the birthplace of the Lock The Gate movement and home to the Bentley Blockade, the issues surrounding coal seam gas mining and exploration are particularly close to the hearts of the Northern Rivers NSW local community. What The Frack? on Festival Sunday will see award winning journalistPaddy Manning in conversation with Hans Lovejoy, editor of local independently owned newspaper, the Byron Shire Echo.

The effects of climate change on our coastal life and our Pacific neighbours will be examined on FestivalSaturday at The Pacific is Sinking with Vanuatu-based photojournalist, writer and filmmaker Ben Bohane, human rights lawyer David Manne, Nobel Prize winner and 1997 Australian of the Year Peter Doherty, chaired by Walkley Award winning journalist Antony Funnell.

The Festival Program is available now and can viewed at byronwritersfestival.com