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May 12, 2021

Sunday’s for kids at the festival, Possums

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Entertainment in the Byron Shire for the week beginning May 12

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Devoured by adults as well as younger readers: Melina Marchetta. Photo Marc Burlace

Byron Bay Writers’ Festival Sunday opens with a choice of sessions celebrating Australian icons, or the art of collecting or reviewing books, or losing faith in one’s traditional world, or perhaps the adventures of a compulsive traveller, but don’t be surprised to hear delighted squeals of laughter.

On Sunday August 4, the New Philosopher Marquee will doff its serious demeanour and welcome younger readers for a feast of activities, readings, cartooning and giveaways. It’s a joyful immersion in imagination, where books come alive and story is everything.

Says Festival Director Jeni Caffin: ‘It’s madly entertaining to see children hauling their parents through the gates, desperate to get to the marquee and eager to meet their favourite storytellers. These are the writers who are read to them at night, who people their worlds with adventure and who fire their imaginations. We’re nurturing a lifelong love affair with books and in the 17 years that the festival has existed, we’ve witnessed the emergence of adult readers and writers from these fledgling audiences.’

Romping off to a colourful start is the Maddie and Possum duo, co-hosts of Possum’s Club, Saturday mornings on Prime7. The pair will introduce the line-up of writers of picture books, fantasy and futuristic, silly and serious, historical and hysterical. Jeni Caffin reveals: ‘It’s as much fun for the parents as for the children. Kids’ authors know how to reach their readers in the flesh and for an adult, watching your child’s face light up and imagination take flight through the power of story is a delight in itself. But when I’m standing on the sidelines observing, I’m seeing the grownups react in exactly the same way. Big people lose social conditioning and turn into little people for a brief moment.’

So who will be making magic in the marquee? Hugely popular author Libby Gleeson, creator of picture books, novels for little kids and for older readers, will be first to turn the page. Libby will launch her newest book, Banjo and Ruby Red, aided by students from Byron Bay Public School. She will be followed by Leigh Hobbs and by Judy Horacek, household names in children’s literature, published widely and awarded hugely. Leigh and Judy are renowned illustrators and children have long been transfixed by their whimsical characters.

Bangalow-based Tristan Bancks will contribute his high octane presentation, Martin Chatterton will create mayhem with his wicked wit, and Emma MacTaggart will get kids drawing and writing, and the extraordinary year of Jesse Blackadder continues as she presents her first children’s book, Stay: the last dog in Antarctica.

Looking for Alibrandi is a contemporary classic of Australian literature and for the first time, the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival presents its author, Melina Marchetti. Published in 18 countries and 17 languages, Melina has created the brilliant Lumatere Chronicles, a series devoured by adults as well as younger readers.

Finally, announcing the return of Phillip Gwynne with his addictive super series The Debt, in which cyberspace, sinister villains and racy plot combine to create stories that rip and thrill. Phillip shot to fame with Deadly Unna? and has continued his best-selling career through adult and children’s fiction.

It’s a big day and one for all ages. ‘Don’t feel you must have children to attend: we’re happy for grownups to indulge their inner child!’ said Jeni. ‘Leave your inhibitions at the gate and throw yourself headlong into the ring.’

Byron Bay Writers’ Festival dates are August 2–4. All information and bookings at www.byronbaywritersfestival.com and 6685 5115. Purchasers of Youth Day passes will receive one free accompanying adult pass free of charge, upon request.

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