Literary feast at literary festival

At the launch are (from left) Robert Drewe; Mungo MacCallum; Jeni Caffin; SCU vice chancellor Paul Clarke and Russell Eldridge.
At the launch are (from left) Robert Drewe; Mungo MacCallum; Jeni Caffin; SCU vice chancellor Paul Clarke and Russell Eldridge.
FICTION, non-fiction, film, theatre, verse, music, laughter and serious in-depth discussions – the 2009 Byron Bay Writers Festival will have it all and much, much more.

To be held at Belongil Fields for the first time, the 13th annual festival from August 7-9 is regarded as one of Australia’s most popular literary events.

This year’s program is packed with dozens and dozens of marquee sessions, workshops, literary lunches and dinners, cabaret, special events and a school and children’s program.

Launched last Thursday night at the Byron Bay Community Centre, festival director Jeni Caffin said she hoped people would find as much joy in the program as she had putting it together.

“I wondered whether I still had enough brain cells to keep the new ideas flowing for yet another festival, and yes, luckily I did,” she said.

“This festival, like all the previous ones, has an excellent mix of genres from writers young and old.”

Former editor of The Northern Star Russell Eldridge, local author Robert Drewe and political commentator Mungo MacCallum spoke about the highs and lows of previous festivals.

Last year’s wet weather, which saw the cancellation of the first day of the festival for the first time in its history, was high on the list of lows, while Mungo said he had never had a bad experience at a festival.

Speaking after the launch, Ms Caffin said the program was an indicator of just how wonderful the state of Australian literature was.

“We have strong, fresh and new writers mixing with older, established writers and this is very exciting,” she said.

“Our eldest writer is 83-year-old Shirley Walker of Bangalow, while the youngest is hot West Australian Craig Silvey, who is 26.”

Ms Caffin said program highlights included the public opening lecture on Friday, August 7, with leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, as well as sessions with Peter Singer, widely credited with starting the animal rights movement; prominent Australian journalist Kerry O’Brien; and Indigenous Australian film-maker Rachel Perkins.

She said the program also included plenty of humour, with Wendy Harmer and Gretel Killeen.

“I am also really excited to welcome many visiting overseas writers including Wayan Juniartha from Bali, Imran Ahmad who was born in Pakistan and grew up in London, and Thando Sibanda from Zimbabwe,” Ms Caffin said.

“It’s only eight weeks until the festival, so we are on the countdown and I can’t wait until August.”

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