Weekend of words, sun and laughs
THE 5am starts, the weeks of late nights and all the pressure of delivering her first Byron Bay Writers’ Festival have paid off for Candida Baker.
Record crowds, brilliant weather, a fabulous site and some of the sharpest and funniest literary minds from Australia and overseas all combined to make the 15th annual literary festival held last Friday, Saturday and Sunday one of the best.
Exhausted but elated, director Ms Baker said she was “thrilled”.
“Friday broke all sales records for any single day and then Saturday was the second largest sales day ever,” she said.
“The weather was sensational and I couldn’t believe that at 9am on Sunday the marquees were full. “People actually got out of bed early to come to the festival.”
Ms Baker said there were so many highlights and special moments, but a high point was interviewing her friend and author Louis de Bernieres and the unexpected appearance of Koko the dog from the film Red Dog, along with the film producer Nelson Woss.
With more than 200 local, national and international authors, seven marquees, a sculpture walk and a rich and varied program with passion as its theme, guests, young and old, found it hard to decide what session to attend.
The keynote address on Saturday afternoon by one of the world’s most awarded and celebrated journalists, John Pilger, attracted more than 1000 people in one of the biggest sessions ever seen at the festival.
Pilger spoke about US presidents, past and present, human rights and claimed that Australia had become a satellite state of the US.
“We (Australia) need to change our attitude with this ally if we are ever to find our place in the world,” he said.
Pilger received a standing ovation.
While there were many “serious” discussions and conversations during the weekend, comedy was also on the agenda.
With Charlie Pickering, Wendy Harmer, Libby Gorr, Mandy Nolan and more, there was much to laugh about, and Ms Baker said the comedy events were sell-outs.
Lawyer-cum-comedian -cum-author-cum-TV-host Pickering had the crowd in the palm of his hand on Friday with his hilarious story about his mother’s “boob job” in the session Stand Up For Embarrassment..
Other popular sessions included The Life and Times of Phillip Adams; In Conversation with Betty Churcher; Memoirs from The Music Men with Brian Cadd and Michael Chugg; Looking Left and Right in Australia Today with Bob Carr, Robert Manne and Niki Savva; and In Conversation with Richard Glover.
The dedicated children’s program on Sunday and the high schools day on Thursday drew huge crowds, as did the off-site events and literary lunches and dinners.
“One of the incredible things about the festival is the way writers, volunteers, sculptors and sponsors all mingle together in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere,” Ms Baker said.
Ms Baker said she was incredibly proud of her small and dedicated team and the volunteers. “If you loved the festival this year, just wait for what we have in store next year,” Ms Baker said.