Byron writers fest world class, yet built on volunteering

The backbone of the Byron Writers Festival: its friendly volunteers.

The backbone of the Byron Writers Festival: its friendly volunteers.

More than 200 volunteers descended onto the site of the Byron Writers Festival site at the weekend to prepare for the big annual three-day event which opens on Friday.

The major annual literary event in Byron Bay and surrounding towns is almost sold out, which has elated organisers.

The festival, which began in 1997, offers a seven-day program attracting more than 65,000 individual attendances and reaching more than 4,000 school students.

For founder Chris Hanley, it is a significant milestone as Byron Writers Festival celebrates its 20th year and he enjoys his final year as festival chair.

‘It’s fitting that as we celebrate our 20th anniversary, the festival is experiencing its strongest ticket sales ever,’ Mr Hanley said.

‘We’re on track for Friday and Saturday to sell out,’ he said.

‘Being part of Byron Writers Festival has nourished my soul for 20 years and been such joy in my life.’

Mr Hanley says the festival’s prosperity ‘is built on much more than literary talent’.

‘Many people are unaware that this Festival is pulled together by a very small team of staff, a volunteer Board, the support of the community and sponsors and a legion of volunteers, many of whom come back each year to help us host this incredible event.’

The festival’s volunteers and schools day manager, Penny Leonard, said Byron Writers Festival couldn’t run without its volunteers.

‘We always receive so much positive and enthusiastic feedback about the friendliness of our volunteers,’ Ms Leonard said.

‘Many of them have helped out since the very first festival.

‘Visitors always comment on how lovely they are. Nothing is too much trouble.

‘The festival attracts many locals but we have also had volunteers from Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, New Zealand and even the United States and Holland over the years,’ Ms Leonard said.

Mr Hanley believes the region’s natural beauty and diverse community add to the festival’s popularity.

‘Our extraordinary natural environment and village atmosphere combine to create a unique destination,’ he said.

‘During the festival, I love seeing festival-goers enjoying our cafes and restaurants, walking on the beach or doing the lighthouse walk.

‘Having visited many of our country’s writers festivals, I believe ours in the most relaxed and friendly.’

For festival tickets go to or call 02 6685 5115.

BWF 2016 Articles & Reviews

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