I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Coffee Books Laughs at Byron Bay Writers Festival

One of the food marquees at this year's festival

Most years for the past ten I have visited the Byron Bay Writers Festival, clutching a three day pass to join thousands of other book lovers for a stimulating fix.
The festival is always great fun and inevitably gets creative juices going again.
The programme draws book lovers writers publishers performers journalists and celebrities from many parts of Australia and from overseas to take part in panel discussions covering a wide range of topics.
Last weekend as usual, a dozen or so big marquees and tents were set up in the grounds of the Byron Bay Beach Resort to take the huge crowds who come for the event.
The idea is that in between sessions ticket holders laze around at tables and chairs set on the lawns in the renowned Byron Bay winter sun, drinking coffee, chatting and talking about books they’ve just purchased from the bookseller’s tent.
However, this year it rained on Friday, the first day.
And how it rained!
So much so that the place was a quagmire and the day’s programme was abandoned.
However, on Saturday the sun shone again and we all got on with it.
The star of the show had to be Miriam Margolyes the British actress who strangely is best known in many circles as the voice of one of the sheep in the movie Babe.
This year Australians got to know Miriam much better when Andrew Denton interviewed her on his ABC show Enough Rope, and our admiration soared again last week-end.
The actress tours world wide in a show in which she does readings from Charles Dickens, bringing the characters to life with incredible talent, and she shared some of these with us.
Miriam treated the Byron crowd to a reading from the first few pages of Bleak House and the effect was so moving that you could see the fog and feel the cold of 19th century London right there and then.
Her rendition of Miss Haversham of Great Expectations had the spiteful spinster in the marquee in front of us - in the flesh!

And yet there Mirian sat – no props, in jeans and joggers and with the most flexible voice and facial muscles in the business as her only tools.

Miriam Margolyes

The festival of 2008 will also be recalled as the one when The Big Issue of the moment was all but missing from the programme.
I always looked forward to the usual sessions in which panelists and incisive audiences grappled with Australia’s social and political preoccupations of the moment.
Last week-end the elephant in the room was climate change, and the programme all but ignored this potentially catastrophic concern.
Perhaps the abandoned lecture by Tim Costello on global ethics may have come to the party.
However, so far as I could see, the only other session title that held possible promise, ‘The longest decade: fifteen years of Australian politics’ was held in the dying moments of the festival late Sunday afternoon to a packed audience.
Problem was the panel also shied away from the elephant.
As chairman, Russell Eldridge former editor of the Northern Star newspaper sought forecasts for Australia in the next ten years, but …
Sydney Morning Herald’s Ross Gittins made a few polite and erudite references to the Big Problem, and Mungo McCallum, far from his usual straightforward self, seemed worried about being branded a climate change scaremonger.
George Megalogenis of The Australian even managed to look into the crystal ball to sum up the next ten years without one reference to climate change at all.

George Megalogenis also took part
in a session on blogging with fellow panelist Angela Pippos.

My great sympathy went to Professor Brendan Gleeson of Griffith Uni who seemed utterly frustrated with the whole scene, gasping that those political characters who bleat about 5c changes in petrol prices will not even be remembered at the end of the testing ten years.
When are Australian journalists and writing festival programmers (not to mention politicians) going to take our future seriously?

Sitting next to me in the session on blogging I met Celia
who has just retired from work at the age of 82. She's
about to write her memoirs centred on her arrival in
Australia in a troop carrier carrying refugees from
Europe in 1950.
Good on you Celia!

William McInnes of Sea Change snatched a short word
with author Alan Close before they launched into the session
What Men Don't Talk About: Until Now

I caught my favourite TV current affairs journalist
Kerry O'Brien of ABC's 7.30 Report in full flight in this shot.

I met my friend Katherine Howell at uni when I was doing my degree in Creative Writing and History a few years ago. She went on to a Masters Degree and has just launched her second crime novel based on the adventures of a paramedic. Kath worked on ambulances herself for four years so has lots of fodder for the background to her stories.

The queues at the coffee tents remained long throughought the week-end. Nothing like a caffeine fix on a cold day!
And, of course, the book shop did a roaring trade ...


  1. Hi June, Sounds like once you got past the rain, the festival turned out to be a fun event. I bet Celia's memoirs will be interesting. I love the pictures of your garden in your sidebar. Your garden is absolutely beautiful. It looks like such a serene place to visit and just enjoy all the beautiful flowers or read or meditate. I like the statues, too, and your flowers are amazing. Is that an orange tree in your garden?

  2. Hi again Judy - I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on my blogs. Yes the garden is lovely - my daughter designed it and my son-in-law did the landscaping. They have a garden centre and certainly know what they are doing! The garden space is only reasonably small but the design belies that. Clever people. There are lots of little spaces or 'rooms' that divide it up and give different experiences. The tree near the clothesline is a mandarin ...

  3. Thanks for sharing various events with me, actually I found this while searching for Writer's Event in Byron Bay.


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