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December 9, 2021

Must-see sessions at Byron Writers Festival

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Byron Writers Festival is a three-day feast for the brain and soul. With more than 150 speakers appearing in 115 sessions over three days (6–8 August) the only problem you’ll have is choosing which sessions to see! Read on for some daily highlights that will enlighten and inspire.

Norman Swan.

Friday highlights

The first day of the festival offers over 35 sessions to choose from, including literary hard-hitters Robert Dessaix, Pip Williams (author of national number one best-seller The Dictionary of Lost Words), and Booker Prize-winner Richard Flanagan in conversation with Jennifer Byrne discussing his award-winning novels and recent exposé of the Tasmanian salmon industry Toxic.

Raina MacIntyre.

Two of the country’s most trusted pandemic commentators, Dr Norman Swan and Professor of Global Biosecurity Raina MacIntyre come together with stem cell expert Professor John Rasko for a fascinating session on ‘Ethics and Medicine’.

The hilarious hard-baked hacks of The Betoota Advocate make their literary festival debut alongside comedian Becky Lucas in ‘Outback Spin’. Byron Bay often features in The Betoota’s satirical exposés, so expect an entertaining session that cuts close to the linen!

Former Insiders presenter Barrie Cassidy hosts the inaugural Mungo Panel named in honour of legendary journalist and beloved local, Mungo MacCallum. Joining the panel will be Kerry O’Brien, The Saturday Paper’s political correspondent Karen Middleton and journalist and Penny Wong biographer Margaret Simons to ask ‘Has the Media Lost Its Mojo?’

Archie Roach.

National treasure and ARIA Hall of Fame inductee Archie Roach will share his life-story as told in his highly acclaimed memoir Tell Me Why, an unforgettable story of resilience, strength of spirit and hope.

Kitty Flanagan. Photo Rebecca Bana.

Saturday highlights

Saturday covers diverse, compelling and entertaining terrain. Fiction lovers will be enthralled by live conversations with award-winning authors Craig Silvey (Honeybee) and Alice Pung (One Hundred Days), whilst Chigozie Obioma and Kate Grenville will join the festival via live stream.

The Betoota Advocate Clancy Overell and Errol Parker.

Former Labor MP Kate Ellis (Sex, Lies and Question Time) and NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi will offer important insights into the experience of women in Australian politics. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will discuss his experience in the nation’s top job and the contentious events of his political life.

Bryan Brown.

On a lighter note, comedians Kitty Flanagan, Judith Lucy, Christian Hull and Mandy Nolan will explain why ‘My Life is a Joke’ in a session sure to bring the house down. Andrew Denton goes head-to-head with the lads from The Betoota Advocate and author Lech Blaine in ‘Rugby League Tragics’. Iconic Australian actor and debut crime novelist Bryan Brown will share stories of his illustrious career, spanning more than 80 films, with Byron Writers Festival founder Chris Hanley.

Young activists Jean Hinchliffe and co-organiser of the Byron Shire Youth for Climate movement Mia Thom will share the stage in ‘I Want to Change the World’, a session hosted by writer, activist and former senator Scott Ludlum.

Julia Baird. Photo Alex Ellinghausen

Sunday highlights

The festival ends on a high with a series of panels celebrating the beauty and power of nature and the importance of human connection. ABC TV’s The Drum host and Phosphorescence author Julia Baird joins fellow ocean lover and upcoming young writer Emily Brugman and author Jock Serong in ‘That Oceanic Feeling’.

Indigenous fire management expert Victor Steffensen, philosopher Danielle Celermajer, and award-winning author and poet Tony Birch celebrate love of country in ‘Small Green Shoots: Nature and Healing’.

Mimi Kwa.

Novelists Meg Mason (Sorrow and Bliss) and Sam Coley (State Highway One) join memoirists Mimi Kwa (House of Kwa) and Alison Croggon (Monsters) to unpick sibling bonds in the panel ‘Brothers and Sisters’.

Food lovers will be delighted with panels featuring chef, farmer and food writer Matthew Evans whose new book Soil is a hymn to the remarkable and underappreciated bit of earth that gifts us life. Evans joins local food producer, innovator and farmer Pam Brook (We Can All Eat That!) and respected journalist and writer Gabrielle Chan (Why You Should Give a F**k About Farming) for the enlightening panel ‘Food: It Starts on the Farm’.

Matthew Evans.

Settle in for a chuckle as Mandy Nolan talks about ‘Introverts: When Two’s a Crowd’ with comedian and podcaster Christian Hull, and debut author Madeleine Ryan, who at 27 was diagnosed with autism, six months into writing her debut novel A Room Called Earth.

The kids get a whole marquee to themselves on Sunday morning to be entertained by their favourite authors and illustrators for the hugely popular Kids Big Day Out program featuring Tristan Bancks, Isobelle Carmody, Kirli Saunders, Dub Leffler, Davina Bell, Ursula Duborsarsky and Will Kostakis.

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