Festival Director Edwina Johnson is thrilled her first Festival Program was so well received by the local and wider community. ‘The whole event ran incredibly smoothly, our volunteers once again doing Byron proud.’
According to Johnson the convivial 2014 tone was set by the gregarious Festival authors from Opening Night at the Byron Bay Surf Club. ‘Delta Kay’s welcome to country was incredibly moving – you could hear a pin drop in the room and Tim Eddy’s short film summarising our Five Writers, Five Towns in Five Days regional literary tour was a triumph. People didn’t want to leave.’
Johnson says the audience for Jeanette Winterson’s Keynote Address was so large it 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.’
The crowd at the Andrew Denton and Andrew Knight conversation with Geoff Lemon also spilled out of the tent. ‘Bringing the Andrews together for a session has been a long-held dream of Festival Founder Chris Hanley and it was worth the wait,’ says Johnson. ‘The tent continuously erupted in laughter as the privileged audience listened in on the conversation between these two extraordinary men.’
Collins Bookseller Gabi Calder says the quality of the program and the willingness of the audience to engage with authors and their work resulted in a roaring trade for the book store. ‘Bob Brown was the biggest seller of any Festival book we’d ever had,’ says Calder. ‘Rabia Siddique’s memoir Equal Justice sold incredibly well. Malcolm Fraser’s Dangerous Allies was also a big hit and the engagement during his book signing was wonderful to watch. The Festival vibe was just buzzing and it is great to see patrons being inspired to buy so many books.’ She sad.
It seems the Byron Writers Festival is not only a favourite for festival-goers but also with authors. ‘So many authors pulled me aside over the weekend to tell me Byron was their favourite festival,’ says Johnson.
The Festival also welcomes many publishing executives. Beverley Cousins from Random loves the relaxed atmosphere of the Byron Festival. ‘This is my first time in Byron and I love the way you can move easily between sessions and dip into different topics. It feels very inclusive.’
Johnson says she has so many ideas for the 2015 Festival. ‘Even as I close the marquee flaps on this event, my mind is churning with all the exciting ideas for next year. I can’t wait to start inviting authors.’