Ideas at forefront for written festival

Byron Writers Festival Vice Chair Adam van Kempen and Festival Director Edwina Johnson clutching the full program for the 2018 festival released today.

After many months of careful curation, the full program for this year’s Byron Writers Festival has been released, profiling 140 writers and thinkers who will converge at the Elements of Byron resort from August 3 till 5.

Festival director Edwina Johnson says, ‘We’re thrilled at how well this year’s program has been received. Our office phone has been running hot and lots of lovely locals have dropped by to snap up Sunday’s locals tickets. We’re also delighted to discover that many people are coming as a group with their book clubs.’

Drawing the region’s creative minds and national and international headliners, the festival will again feature inspiring true stories and writers of fiction, politics, society, environment, science, art, music, comedy and children and young adults. There’s something for everyone – and apart from the festival itself, there are diverse writers’ workshops and evening events in Byron Bay and the wider northern rivers region.

True stories

Sharing their inspiring true stories will be young Saudi activist Manal al-Sharif (Daring to Drive), sexual assault survivor Bri Lee (Eggshell Skull) and music teacher of Afghan children, Eddie Ayres (Danger Music).

Other storytellers include Asylum Seeker Resource Centre founder Kon Karapanagiotidis, Jessie Cole (Staying), Sarah Krasnostein (The Trauma Cleaner), Sarah Wilson (First, We Make the Beast Beautiful), Dr Anita Heiss (Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia) and acclaimed historian Henry Reynolds (This Whispering in Our Hearts).

Broadcaster Richard Fidler will take his turn in the hot seat with Saga Land co-author Kári Gíslason to explore the Vikings.

Local writers

Local writers include literary luminary Robert Drewe, who will launch his new collection of short stories The True Colour of the Sea.

He joins Jessie Cole (Staying) and Southern Cross University lecturer Gregory Smith, who came Out of the Forest after spending more than ten years surviving in near total isolation in the Goonengerry scrub.

Other local notables include Emma and Tom Lane, who will release a book later in the year about their experience of creating local enterprise The Farm.  

International guests

International guests include best-selling UK authors Matt Haig and Hannah Richell, award-winning author of The Reader Bernhard Schlink and celebrated poet and UK-based broadcaster Lemn Sissay. They join inspirational Woman in the Wilderness Miriam Lancewood (The Netherlands) and North Korean defector Hyeonseo Lee, whose memoir The Girl with Seven Names has become a global bestseller.


Prolific novelist and playwright Tom Keneally heads up fiction, alongside Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies), Melissa Lucashenko (Too Much Lip), Josephine Wilson, Steven Carroll, debut novelist Future D Fidel (Prize Fighter). Crime writers include Candice Fox, Dervla McTiernan and Jane Harper, whose book The Dry has been requisitioned by Reese Witherspoon’s film production company. 

Politics, society

What would Byron be without politics? This year’s formidable contingent of inspirational and outspoken political women include Tanya Plibersek, Jacqui Lambie, Christine Milne, Australia’s first federal female parliamentarian of Muslim faith Anne Aly and former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs.

Former foreign minister Gareth Evans and foreign correspondent Peter Greste will speak, along with Warren Mundine (Black + White: Race, Politics and Changing Australia), Clive Hamilton (Silent Invasion), Louise Milligan (Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell) and professor Jenny Hocking (The Dismissal Dossier), who will be in conversation with Kerry O’Brien. 


Distinguished guests at the forefront of science, technology and the state of our planet include Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel, leading science writer Elizabeth Finkel, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific and The Coal Truth author David Ritter, and long-time farmer and PhD in social change Charles Massy. Marine biologist, pioneering researcher and mother of two daughters raised at sea Micheline Jenner will tell us all about The Secret Life of Whales.

Art, music and comedy

Acclaimed visual artist Tracey Moffatt will deliver a talk about her artistic practice, while You Am I front man and Detours memoirist Tim Rogers and acclaimed singer/songwriter and Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning will open up their songbooks. Comedian Kitty Flanagan comes clean about Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies, while fellow comedians Mandy Nolan and Ellen Briggs will perform the smash hit that inspired their book Women Like Us.

Children and young adults

MC Shep Huntly offers a jam-packed, fun-filled program for the whole family with a huge array of activities for kids of all ages at the Kids Big Day Out on Festival Sunday, while Oliver Phommavanh (Natural Born Loser and Thai-riffic!), Lian Tanner the best-selling author of children’s fantasy adventure trilogy The Keepers and Funny Kid for President author Matt Stanton are among many others who will appear. 

Printed programs were distributed in last week’s Echo and a digital version can be downloaded at

• See more news and articles on the 2018 Byron Writers Festival.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Become a supporter of The Echo

A note from the editorial team

Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

The Echo has never underestimated the intelligence and passion of its readers. In a world of corporate banality and predictability, The Echo has worked hard for more than 30 years to help keep Byron and the north coast unique with quality local journalism and creative ideas. We think this area needs more voices, reasoned analysis and ideas than just those provided by News Corp, lifestyle mags, Facebook groups and corporate newsletters.

The Echo is one hundred per cent locally owned and one hundred per cent independent. As you have probably gathered from what is happening in the media industry, it is not cheap to produce a weekly newspaper and a daily online news service of any quality.

We have always relied entirely on advertising to fund our operations, but often loyal readers who value our local, independent journalism have asked how they could help ensure our survival.

Any support you can provide to The Echo will make an enormous difference. You can make a one-off contribution or a monthly one. With your help, we can continue to support a better informed local community and a healthier democracy for another 30 years.”

Echonetdaily is made possible by the support of all of our advertisers.