Byron Writers Festival set a high bar this year, the standard of speakers was exceptional, the breadth of topics and genres immense and to top it all the weather gods were kind to us, and it felt like summer.
Friday was buzzing with a huge crowd in every venue. Kitty Flanagan had audiences in stitches along with Andrew Hanson, Mandy Nolan and Ellen Briggs. On a more serious note Tanya Plibersek showed a more humane face of politics when she was in conversation with Matthew Condon.
Eddie Ayres throughout all 3 days had sessions where he showed his amazing resilience, humour and humanity about his musical and life journey. A fantastic role model for those in his path.
Saturday again dawned sunny and brought audiences in for another vast offering including taking a closer look at the Wellness Industry with Brigid Delaney and Sarah Wilson and the serious reality of our possible demise in Poisoning the Planet with Carey Gillam and Charles Massey.
The panel for Anxiety: Is it Just Me? Spread some light on the subject of anxiety and how this seemingly normal human state is paralyzing many in our society, when it kicks into overdrive.
There were some lighter sessions too chaired as ever by the delightful Mandy Nolan, And Then he Kissed Me created raucous laughter throughout the festival. As well as the various kisses from their latest books the writers, Rachel Johns, Victoria Purman and Christine Wells, also quite rightly discussed the need for an alternative term to the highly limiting Womens’ Fiction. This term dating back from early writings is surely up for a makeover?
Sunday brought tears to the eye, strength to the heart and people to their feet. So many highlights. Two of the major standouts I was lucky enough to witness were Lemn Sissay and his personal story of entrapment within the UK ‘Care’ system, he also gifted the audience a powerful rendition of his poem Mourning Breaks and received a standing ovation.
First Open a Vein an emotional session chaired compassionately by Jesse Blackadder drew together a panel of Jessie Cole, Walter Mikac and Hannah Richell who all have bravely shared their journeys through pain and loss. There was not a dry eye in the house and the audience got to their feet to honour and respect the writers.
Sunday also brought in our younger readers for Kids Big Day Out, mix kids and children’s authors and a day of hilarity ensues. The StoryBoard Project was also on site continuing their mission of educating and entertaining kids with activities around the wigwams.
Many are already hailing the 2018 Byron Writers Festival the best yet, can’t wait to see what 2019 brings.