PLEASING: Crowds enjoy the sun-filled days at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival.
PLEASING: Crowds enjoy the sun-filled days at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Festival fine tuned

THE Byron Bay weather turned it on for the duration of the Writers' Festival - the biggest yet in terms of ticket sales.

"The one thing that late nights and massive attention to detail can't solve is the rain coming out of the sky," said director Jeni Caffin, who returned to the role after two years directing the Ubud Festival in Bali.

"With every month that went by leading up to the festival, my anxiety was rising with the water table. I had forgotten about that terror."

But when the sun came out on Thursday Ms Caffin said it was like the feeling after having given birth.

"You forget the pain and think, oh this is easy," she said.

Along with the sunshine and exotic cuisines, the record crowds soaked up discussions that ranged from the serious and the sad, to the darkly comical to the current political climate.

Ms Caffin said the festival was more "multi-layered" as a result of her Ubud experience, and more challenging for audiences.

"And this is what you hope to do, to challenge people beyond their conventional beliefs and introduce them to new ideas," she said.

"I'm seeing that in the book sales. It's not the big stars who are selling in numbers, it's people like Chris Sarra, the indigenous educator, whose book sold out, and Kooshyar Karimi, the Iranian refugee, had a massive sale."

The promise of new ideas contained within the program was what drew the punters as much as the weather, said Chair Chris Hanley.

Adelaide-born DBC Pierre was the highlight for many. Robert Drewe's Thea Astley lecture, Peter Carey's "generous" description of his writing process and the heart wrenching experience of military man John Cantwell were also popular.


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