Surprise guests add spice to lit fest

A new site, a new venue for the opening night and a surprise guest list of Australia’s best writers – the Byron Bay Writers Festival is headed for another record year.

To be held for the first time at Belongil Fields, from August 6 to 9, the 13th annual festival will feature a guest list of more than 100 writers from Australia and overseas.

“All the writers who are coming to the festival have confirmed and I am really excited,” festival director Jeni Caffin said.

“At this stage I can’t tell you who’s coming, but we have some big surprises.

“There are some fabulous Australian writers, but also some wonderful authors from South-East Asia and America who will add spice to the star-studded program.”

The overseas contingent will include Balinese journalist Wayan Juniartha, who was the first journalist on site in Kuta after the devastating nightclub bombings in 2002.

Wayan is also a board member of the very popular Ubud Writers Festival.

American writers in this year’s program are Janet Steele, an academic from Washington who is an expert on Indonesia and Indonesian affairs.

Her book is called ‘Wars Within’ and focuses on the Soeharto regime.

The other US guest is Sadanand Dhume, a journalist from Washington who has written a book on India

Courtesy of the French Consulate, Herve Kempf from Paris will also be a guest.

“I am very proud to have secured Herve,” Jeni said.

“He is the environmental editor for the Le Monde newspaper and has just released his new book called ‘How The Rich Are Destroying The Earth’.

“Herve will fit in really well at our festival.”

Jeni said that as usual there would be a wonderful children’s and school program and heaps of stand-up comedy.

She said that humour had always been an iconic part of the festival and always proved very popular with festival-goers.

“We will also focus on songwriting,” Jeni said.

The opening night on Thursday, August 6, will be held for the first time at the Bangalow A and I Hall.

“We decided to move the event from the community centre in Byron Bay to Bangalow so we could be more inclusive of the community and give the visiting writers a chance to see another part of the Byron Shire,” Jeni said.

“The keynote speaker will be a big surprise.”

The popular writer’s cabaret has been moved to the Saturday night and will now be held at the ‘Jungle Bar’ at the Byron Bay Services Club.

Hula hoop ‘phenomenon’ Judith Lanigan from Australia will perform.

Judith has performed with the famous Cirque du Soleil.

Other feature events will include a special exhibition of postcards at Waywood Gallery in the Byron Bay Arts and Industry Estate and a number of literary lunches.

“I am really excited about this year’s festival,” Jeni said.

“The new site is going to be great. There’s more parking and the ground is more solid, so if it rains hopefully we won’t have the same problems with drainage that we had at the site last year.

“Festival-goers can still buy one, two and three-day tickets and look out for the early-bird tickets which will go on sale on April 3.”

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