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Writers-fest marquees ‘shredded’ by winds but the show goes on

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The Byron Bay Writers Festival site, before Thurssday night's strong winds blew some apart.
The Byron Bay Writers Festival site, before Thurssday night’s strong winds blew some apart.

The show goes on, wind, rain or shine, say organisers of the 20th Byron Writers Festival  after two large marquees were shredded by strong winds on the eve of the event’s opening today.

Winds gusting up to 113kph in Byron bay tore the marquees apart overnight and festival staff rushed to repair the damage early this morning (Friday) and pump water from the site.

An emergency meeting by organiser earlier today decided the show must go on (but gumboots are recommended) and patrons are set for a three-day feast of literature, music, art, photography, food and a lot more.

The diverse program explores music with Paul Kelly, Amanda Brown, Hugo Race, Pat Davern and Peggy Frew; visual arts with AGNSW director Dr Michael Brand, Archibald winning artist Nigel Milsom and his subject Charles Waterstreet; social documentary photography with Tim Page, Gary Ramage, Ben Bohane and Rio Helmi; cooking with Indira Naidoo and Annabel Crabb – plentiful food for thought across the three days.

Festival director Edwina Johnson said the festival ‘celebrates creative spirit in all its forms and invites patrons to immerse themselves in the lives and imaginations of our leading artistic talents and thinkers’.

‘Byron Bay is a cultural epicentre and has long been home to a community that is passionate about the arts and the exchange of ideas across disciplines,’ Ms Johnson said.

Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly


‘It’s 400 years since Shakespeare died and 20 years since Byron Writers Festival was born so who better to provide the soundtrack for this year’s Festival than one of Australia’s most celebrated bards, Paul Kelly.

‘The off-site festival event at Byron Theatre featuring Kelly performing songs from his recent Shakespeare ‘covers’ album Seven Sonnets & A Song sold out in record time but there is still the opportunity to hear him in conversation (and no doubt, a bit of song) with Sarah Kanowski on Festival Saturday.

‘The festival line-up features more Australian rock royalty with author, troubadour and former member of The Bad Seeds Hugo Race; multi-instrumentalist, screen composer and Go-Betweens member Amanda Brown; Grinspoon guitarist Pat Davern who wrote a children’s book during the band’s hiatus, and award-winning novelist Peggy Frew who is also a member of the critically acclaimed Melbourne band Art of Fighting.


‘On Festival Saturday Rosemarie Milsom will unwrap the Archibald Prize with 2015 Prize winner Nigel Milsom and his subject Charles Waterstreet.

‘Nigel and Charles will also join cultural leader, arts scholar and Director of Art Gallery of NSW Dr Michael Brand at a free Feature Event at the beautiful Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Arts Centre on Sunday afternoon.

‘On Festival Friday Brand will be in conversation with author Dominic Smith about his highly anticipated novel The Last Painting of Sara de Vos which features the Art Gallery of NSW.

‘Renowned social documentary photographers whose powerful images have given us crucial insight into the lives of people and events across the globe include legendary photo-journalist Tim Page, who covered his first war in Vietnam at age 19 and has been wounded four times since; Walkley Award winning photographer Gary Ramage who spent four weeks in emergency departments across Australia documenting the impact of the drug ice; Ben Bohane who has specialised in reporting on religion and conflict across the Asia Pacific region for 25 years, as well as celebrated Indonesian photographer Rio Helmi who has been capturing images of Asia since 1978.

‘The beautiful grounds of the festival itself will feature 22 sculptures by local artists, curated by sculptor and ceramic artist Suvira McDonald.

Indira Naidoo
Indira Naidoo


‘Celebrated television journalist Indira Naidoo was appointed an ambassador for the Sydney homeless centre the Wayside Chapel in 2013 and has been conducting weekly gardening classes on its award-winning rooftop vegetable garden.

‘Naidoo will discuss her bestselling book The Edible Balcony documenting her adventures growing fruit and vegetables on her inner-city balcony with accompanying delicious recipes.

‘Star of Kitchen Cabinet Annabel Crabb will be in conversation with festival founder Chris Hanley on Festival Friday. The Literary Dinner featuring Crabb and Leigh Sales has sold out.

‘But there are a handful of seats available for the Literary Dinner at the glorious Beach Restaurant in Byron Bay where Paddy Manning, Niki Savva and Simon Marnie will get their teeth into Australian politics.

Tickets on sale at byronwritersfestival.com

BWF 2016 Articles & Reviews

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