Byron Bay Writers Festival raises charity dollars, support students, spreads the message wide and breaks all records!
The success of the 18th Byron Bay Writers Festival continues to reverberate around the Northern Rivers region and beyond.
Festival Director Edwina Johnson says the committee plans to review the size of the bookshop for next year’s Festival. ‘The bookshop was packed throughout the event and we are thrilled to report that Womankind magazine, which is published locally, was the top selling publication of the Festival. This makes it the best-selling publication in the Festival’s history and follows their success last year with New Philosopher magazine being one number at the 2013 Festival.’
‘Womankind magazine launched at the festival and we were thrilled to see such enormous support for the magazine from day one,’ says Antonia Case, editor of Womankind magazine.
Johnson says the final count on the funds raised by the Festival for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) has now come in. ‘With the generous support of Festival-goers, Chairs, authors, sponsors and everyone else involved in the Festival, we raised $6243 which the ILF will inject into their critical literacy programs.’
ILF Executive Director Karen Williams says ‘congratulations to the fantastic and passionate team at the Byron Bay Writers Festival who ensured such wonderful support for our Foundation over the three days. It was a terrific festival and we received so much interest as well as financial support for our programs.’
The Festival also reached more communities than in previous years via unique community links. ‘It was wonderful to work with our Festival sponsor Feros to live stream sessions to their Wommin Bay, Byron Bay and Bangalow care facilities. This was the first time the Festival has managed to enable live streaming and the whole venture was an enormous success, thanks to Feros.’
A special Australia Council grant enabled us to take the Festival out into the towns and communities of the Northern Rivers region with the Five Writers, Five Towns in Five Days tour. On board the tour bus were award-winning writers Craig Sherborne, Nick Earls, Samuel Wagan Watson, Ashley Hay and Zacharey Jane. The tour visited Tweed Heads, Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Grafton and Lennox Head.
The authors were joined on their quest by exciting young film maker Tim Eddy and blogger extraordinaire Angela Meyer, recording and recounting as they go. ‘It’s very gratifying to be able to share the Festival spirit and its myriad stories as widely as possible,’ says Johnson. ‘We are grateful to the Australia Council whose funding of this tour made it possible.’
The Festival also provided a valuable educational opportunity for media students from Southern Cross University, one the Festival’s founding sponsors. ‘The students operated as our journalists on the ground capturing the essence of the event in over 40 blog posts and a continual stream of social commentary via Facebook, twitter and instagram. An incredible effort.’
Festival Chair Chris Hanley said ‘This year’s Macquarie Bank lunch with Mike Carlton and Jane Caro in conversation was the most lively and successful lunch in the history of Macquarie Bank’s ten year sponsorship of the Festival.’
The new Festival site was very popular with Festival-goers. ‘We had a lot of feedback during the event that visitors loved the new site. Its bush setting and relaxed flow were particularly praised. It was a great pleasure working with North Byron Beach Resort to bring the event to fruition in such a beautiful location.’’
With the most successful Byron Bay Writers Festival ever staged put to bed, Johnson says the focus is now firmly on planning 2015. ‘It has been so enjoyable to read the hundreds of emails and posts about how much Festival-goers, sponsors and authors enjoyed the event. The Festival committee and I are incredibly proud of what our small team has achieved on a non-for-profit budget.’
Next year’s Festival will take place from 7-9 August 2015.
1. Womankind Magazine
2. Optimism by Bob Brown (Hardie Grant)
3. The Daylight Gate Jeanette Winterson (Random House)
4. Equal Justice Rabia Siddique (Pan Mac)
5. Light Between Oceans M.L. Stedman (Random House)
6. New Philosopher Magazine
7. Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere Poe Ballantine (NSW)
8. Forgotten Rebels of Eureka Claire Wright (Text)
9. How I rescued my Brain David Rowland(Scribe)
10. Murder in Mississippi John Safran (Penguin)
Byron turned on mostly perfect winter weather for the 2014 Byron Bay Writers Festival, attended by thousands of happy festivalgoers revelling in relaxed literature and big ideas at more than 100 overflowing sessions.
Festival Director Edwina Johnson and Chair Chris Hanley consider the appeal and success of the 18th Festival lay in the calibre of the writers and the diversity and depth the Festival Program, so well received by the local and wider community. ‘The whole event ran incredibly smoothly, our volunteers once again doing Byron proud,’ says Hanley.
Ticket sales and audience numbers were up by 20% on last year, so too were book sales across the Festival. There were more than 60,000 individual engagements over the three-day weekend and during the preceding days for Primary and Secondary School Days workshops and feature events, with Saturday a complete sell-out, a first time achievement for this pivotal regional NSW arts event. While strongly supported by the local Northern Rivers community, many attendees travelled to Byron Bay to attend the Festival weekend.
Johnson reports the audience for international guest Jeanette Winterson’s Keynote Address spilled out the back of the marquee for 10 metres. ‘Jeanette’s speech The Stories We Tell captivated the estimated 1000 people at her session and moved many to tears. She received a rousing standing ovation and afterwards, the book signing queue stretched out and around the bookshop.’
Seeing that keynote address was one of UK columnist and author Antony Loewenstein’s Festival highlights, ‘Jeanette Winterson was eloquent, funny and witty. She is a writer who makes listeners love literature.’
Johnson says nearly all of the off-site feature events sold out. ‘We were still being inundated with booking requests for the sold-out Liner Notes as we opened the doors. It was the talk of the Festival on Saturday morning – a brilliant literary cabaret led by the hugely talented Michael Nolan.’
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Finkel found the surroundings astonishing and humbling. ‘Come for the books, stay for the weather’, Finkel says. ‘It was nice to see how thoughtful people are here. It's been great. I’m glad I came.’
Local writer Martin Chatterton enjoyed the Evening with John Safran and Father Bob Maguire held in Lennox Head. ‘It’s terrific to see the Festival spreading its wings and reaching new audiences. This was the best-ever program.'
Clare Wright, winner of the 2014 Stella Prize participated in four festival sessions and says ‘the program was a feat of curatorial creativity and flair.’
The Festival also welcomes many publishing executives. Annette Barlow from Allen & Unwin says 'Byron Bay Writers Festival is truly spectacular. The wonderfully diverse setting gives the Festival every advantage but more exciting this year was the depth and range of authors attending and subjects discussed. From Bob Brown to Missy Higgins to Jeanette Winterson. Mind food indeed!'
The 19th Byron Bay Writers Festival will be held from 7-9 August 2015.