Writers Festival to draw 50,000

BYRON Bay Writers Festival out-going director Jeni Caffin is expecting 50,000 ‘bums on seats’ over the course of the three-day event which opens on Friday.

Ms Caffin said yesterday ticket sales so far were ‘neck-and-neck’ with those of last year which proved to be the festival’s biggest year.

This year marks the festival’s 14th season with 117 authors confirmed to take part.

“The Byron Bay Writers Festival is Australia’s iconic literary event,” Ms Caffin said.

“It has grown from being a tiny little event with a handful of audience members to an event that continues to grow in a sustainable and steady way.”

The Byron Bay Writers Festival remains Australia’s second largest writer’s festival after Sydney.

“It’s not that size necessarily matters,” Ms Caffin said.

“But with that comes a certain status and the audience we attract continues to follow and what I love about it is that many members come back year after year and will buy early bird tickets without even knowing who is coming because they know it’s going to be great.”

Ms Caffin said the festival was one of the largest remaining festivals in the Byron Shire since Splendour in the Grass moved to Woodford this year.

“There is no doubt that it brings money into the local economy but putting a dollar figure on it is a bit beyond our capacity,” Ms Caffin said.

“These are grim times in the region and this is the biggest event that still lives in the shire so we’re filling beds for people who overnight and restaurants for breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

“It comes at a time of year that the shire can absorb the extra people and everyone can benefit not only culturally and spiritually but economically.”

Workshops organised as part of the three-day event started yesterday and will continue this week before the festival officially opens on Friday.

While Australian authors will continue to dominate the spotlight, Ms Caffin said international guest authors Kathy Lette (Men: A User’s Guide, Puberty Blues, Girls Night Out) and Bret Easton Ellis (Less than Zero, American Psycho, Rules of Attraction) added a dash of international flavour.

"What’s significant is a slightly increased international flavour this year,” she said.

“It adds a bit of spice, however, the heart and soul remains Australian. It’s nice to put a bit of icing on the cake.”

The Byron Bay Writers Festival runs from August 6-8 with workshops all day tomorrow and Thursday.

For a full list of program events and to buy tickets go to www.byronbaywritersfestival.com. Tickets are also available from Jetset Byron Bay.

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