A festival of ideas, conversation and storytelling in one of the world’s most beautiful coastal settings.
Featuring more than 150 writers, thinkers and commentators including Archie Roach, Julia Baird, Richard Flanagan, Judith Lucy, Kate Grenville, Bryan Brown, Marcia Langton, The Betoota Advocate, Alice Pung, Raina MacIntyre, Nevo Zisin, Evelyn Araluen and many, many more…
Byron Writers Festival 2021 (6-8 August) has revealed a program of celebrated authors and commentators as well as powerful new voices to mark its 25th anniversary. More than 150 writers and thinkers will gather in Byron Bay to celebrate the power of words and share inspiring stories with Festival audiences. The Festival also offers writers’ workshops, an engaging program for children and a large range of Satellite Events in venues across the Northern Rivers region.
Festival Director Edwina Johnson says “Now more than ever our world needs writers and stories for healing. At the core of our Festival is the belief in the power of story as a means to connect, heal and make change. Story provides the framework for understanding. Never more so than when we are faced with the shock of a pandemic that has insisted we learn new ways of being and engaging.”
The Festival program features memoirists, poets, medicos, environmentalists, commentators, politicians and artists who together shape narratives of hope, courage and change. Some of the themes examined include loneliness and the importance of cultivating an inner life, satire, Canberra culture, disability and the many ways people experience the world, connection to community, homelands and nature.
Day Passes are available for each day of the Festival, with writers often appearing in multiple panels across the program.
The first day of the Festival offers over 35 sessions to choose from, including literary hard-hitters Robert Dessaix (The Time of Our Lives), Pip Williams author of national number one best-seller The Dictionary of Lost Words and Booker Prize-winner Richard Flanagan (The Living Sea of Waking Dreams) in conversation with Jennifer Byrne discussing his award-winning novels and recent non-fiction exposé of the Tasmanian salmon industry Toxic.
Two of the country’s most trusted pandemic commentators, Dr Norman Swan (So You Think You Know What’s Good for You?) and Professor of Global Biosecurity Raina MacIntyre come together with Professor John Rasko (Flesh Made New: The Unnatural History and Broken Promise of Stem Cells) for the panel ‘Ethics and Medicine’ hosted by ABC Radio National’s Paul Barclay.
The hilarious hard-baked hacks of The Betoota Advocate make their literary festival debut alongside comedian Becky Lucas in ‘Outback Spin’ hosted by Marc Fennell. Byron Bay often features The Betoota Advocate‘s satirical exposés so expect an entertaining panel that cuts close to the linen!
Former Insiders presenter Barrie Cassidy hosts the inaugural Mungo Panel named in honour of legendary journalist and beloved Byron local, the late Mungo McCallum. 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?’
Jack Beaumont is the pseudonym of a former operative in the clandestine operations branch of the French foreign secret service. He will discuss his gripping debut thriller The Frenchman, based on his real-life experiences, with Conversations presenter Sarah Kanowski.
National treasure and ARIA Hall of Fame inductee Archie Roach sits down with Daniel Browning to share his life-story as told in his highly acclaimed memoir Tell Me Why, an unforgettable story of resilience, strength of spirit and hope.
Award-winning author and Festival Guest Curator Roanna Gonsalves (The Permanent Resident) has crafted sessions in the program including ‘Can Fiction Be History?’ featuring renowned novelist Jock Serong (The Burning Island), 2020 Queensland Literary Award winner Mirandi Riwoe (Stone Sky Gold Mountain) and Oodgeroo Noonuccal Indigenous Poetry Prize and Judith Wright Poetry Prize winner Julie Janson.
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 (An Orchestra of Minorities) and Kate Grenville (A Room Made of Leaves) will join the Festival via Zoom.
The annual Thea Astley Keynote Address will be delivered by Professor Judy Atkinson whose ground-breaking book Trauma Trails, Recreating Song Lines: The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia offered a pathway to healing through the listening and telling of stories. In her address titled ‘Listening to Truth Telling’, Judy Atkinson says, “Confronting the past may be hard, painful, shameful but pathways open, and we can see a future that can hold all our Stories. For these Stories are our future.”
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 (The Bigger Picture) will discuss his experience in the nation’s top job and the contentious events of his political life.
On a lighter note, Kitty Flanagan (488 Rules for Life), Judith Lucy (Turns Out, I’m Fine), Complete Drivel podcast creator Christian Hull (Leave Me Alone) and comedian and writer Mandy Nolan (The Full Mandy) 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 Car Crash author Lech Blaine in ‘Rugby League Tragics’. Iconic Australian actor and debut crime novelist Bryan Brown (Sweet Jimmy) will share stories of his illustrious career spanning more than 80 films with Byron Writers Festival founder Chris Hanley.
Miles Franklin winner Melissa Lucashenko (Too Much Lip), writer Arnold Zable (The Watermill) who was instrumental in the campaign to free Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani, and one of Australia’s most compelling cultural critics Randa Abdel-Fattah (Coming of Age in the War on Terror) provide insights in a panel on‘The Power of Words’. Young activists Jean Hinchliffe (Lead the Way) 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 (Full Circle: A search for the world that comes next).
‘Weaving Words for Country: Poetry for a Story of Place’ featuring young Goorie-Koori poet Evelyn Araluen, Wiradjuri poet Jazz Money and Māori-Australian writer and editor Anne-Marie Te Whiu is presented by celebrated author, poet and Festival Guest Curator Tony Birch (The White Girl, Whisper Songs, Dark as Last Night) who has also crafted other sessions in the program.
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 ABIA Book of the Year winner Julia Baird (Phosphorescence) joins fellow ocean lover and upcoming young writer Emily Brugman (Lines to the Horizon) and author Jock Serong in ‘That Oceanic Feeling’. Indigenous fire management expert Victor Steffensen (Fire Country), philosopher Danielle Celermajer (Summertime) and Tony Birch (The White Girl) celebrate love of country in ‘Small Green Shoots: Nature and Healing’.
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’. Daughter of Mao’s Last Dancer, Sophie Li and her mother Mary Li (Mary’s Last Dance) join deaf poet Fiona Murphy (The Shape of Sound) to give insight into ‘The Sound of Silence: Deafness and Identity’.
Food lovers will be delighted with panels featuring chef, farmer, 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’.
Inspiration and intellect are in rich supply at ‘Trailblazers: Women Who Have Made a Difference’ featuring prominent feminist and social equity advocate Eva Cox, eminent Indigenous academic and advocate, Marcia Langton and publisher and founding editor of The Griffith Review, Julianne Schultz.
Poet and Founding Editor of The Saturday Paper Erik Jensen (I Said the Sea Was Folded) hosts ‘Merging Art & Performance into Fiction’ on Sunday, featuring queer author, artist and screenwriter Sophie Hardcastle (Below Deck) and Claire Thomas whose breakout literary sensation The Performance has been described by The Sydney Morning Herald as ‘the most anticipated book of 2021’
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.
A separately ticketed program of Satellite Events throughout the region includes Archie Roach in concert at NORPA in Lismore, free artist talks at Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre and Lismore Regional Gallery, Goorie-Koorie poet Evelyn Araluen at Southern Cross University Lismore, as well as a conversation with chef Matthew Evans and a Youth Poetry Slam at the The Regent Theatre in Murwillumbah.
Byron Writers Festival is committed to the wellbeing of all Festival attendees, artists and staff. The Festival will be delivered under approved COVID-19 Safety Plans following guidelines set by the NSW Department of Health. For full information please visit byronwritersfestival.com/stay-covid-safe.
Byron Writers Festival 2021 takes place 6-8 August in the grounds of Elements of Byron Resort and in venues throughout the region. Passes to each day of the Festival and tickets to all satellite events and workshops are now on sale at www.byronwritersfestival.com/festival.
Byron Writers Festival 2021
6-8 August, 2021
Elements of Byron Resort, Byron Bay
All tickets now on sale!