New Director, New Partnerships, New Mediums and a Diverse Line-up…

The Eighteenth Byron Bay Writers Festival is shaping up to be one of the best yet

After a whirlwind move from Sydney, new Byron Bay Writers Festival Director, Edwina Johnson, is close to finalising a rich program of writers, performers, poets, thinkers, comedians and musicians for the August Festival which is scheduled for Early Bird ticket release on 11 April.
Johnson says the majority of invitations to the Festival have been accepted. ‘The program is filling out with talent covering everything from politics and crime to screen writing and fiction in all its forms,’ says Johnson. ‘We have some international gems and a host of the best local writers and thinkers in Australia today.’
‘Bryon Bay Writers Festival rightly holds a special place in the hearts of Australians across the country as a perennial favourite in the ever-growing writers’ festival circuit. We are keen to consolidate on this existing reputation, established over many years by inspiring directors such as Jill Eddington and Jeni Caffin.’ A number of new media are also being incorporated into the program. ‘We wanted to try some new ideas to diversify the program and explore different literary mediums.’
Johnson is forging new partnerships and deepening others: ‘We are hoping to bring out some exciting Israeli talent and our partnership with Griffith REVIEW goes from strength to strength. The most recent issue of Griffith REVIEW, co-edited by acclaimed New Zealand author Lloyd Jones, shines a spotlight on the shifting tides in New Zealand. Through this association we are bringing out some of New Zealand’s most exciting and innovative literary talent.’
Other areas that are emerging as strong Festival themes include the environment and investigative journalism. ‘We think Festival-goers will find this aspect of the program incredibly stimulating. The children’s program is also looking fantastic with some of Australia’s favourite authors coming to inspire our young writers and readers.’
The Byron Bay Writers Festival was founded in 1997 by small group of locals led by Chris Hanley. ‘We started with an audience of just 200. We now sell more than 50,000 individual tickets and attract top local and international talent.’
Hanley believes the Festival brings significant economic benefit to our region. ‘I enjoy walking through town in that first week in August seeing bookshops buzzing, restaurants packed, accommodation full and knowing that venues from Lismore to Lennox Head to Byron are humming with comedy, literary debate and thrilling new ideas. The value to the region during this quiet time of year is extensive and substantial.’
Johnson recommends people mark their diaries. ‘The Festival is being held from 1- 3 August with workshops commencing on 28 July. We’ll release the full program on 6 June.’ ‘It’s such a privilege to invite leading writers and thinkers to congregate in this stunning landscape to celebrate the written word in all its forms. It’s also a privilege to live in these spectacularly beautiful surroundings. I’ve been holidaying in Byron for the past twenty years and feel so fortunate to have found such a stimulating job in one of the most beautiful places in Australia.’