So, I’m just back from a festival in Byron Bay. No, not Splendour in the Grass, though as a former regular attendee of Splendour, I’m sorry I missed that one – even with the three feet of diatomaceous ooze that apparently covered the site as a result of rain, mud, spilt beer and dunnies.
I’m talking instead of the fantastic Byron Bay Writers’ Festival. This was my first literary festival as one of the participating “artists”, for want of a much more appropriate word. It was a nice coincidence that it was in my home town. I took part in three panels, all of them enjoyable and all with big and appreciative crowds. (Thanks, folks.)
Below are some photos, mostly taken when the joint was empty on the Thursday before the event kicked off. (I’d been out there for a panel with secondary school students from the Byron region.) With the colder-than-average temps, the yurt-like marquees, the blue skies and the grassy fields, the place felt a bit like Mongolia, though with better coffee and more salt-and-pepper squid on the menu.
Friday through Sunday was a different kettle of fish altogether, as a record crowd rolled in to the beautiful Belongil site, all of them there – of course – to see me. (And maybe Thomas Keneally.)
Some festival moments:
Thorniest question from an audience member: “Next week I leave for Catania, Sicily, on a six-month exchange programme. Will I enjoy it?” – posed by a 16-year-old student.
Biggest revelation (upon seeing the gargantuan line of pint-sized book buyers scrambling to get their hands on Andy Griffiths’ books after his panel): That I should abandon adult non-fiction and write stories for children instead.
Favourite festival moment #1: The sun setting over Mount Warning during opening night drinks at the Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club.
Favourite festival moment #2: Sharing the stage with Byron Bay’s awesome crop of debut authors on our Sunday morning panel.
Favourite festival word: bob-brown: verb. To “bob-brown” someone means to attract all the members of a large crowd to a single location thereby depriving another person in a nearby location of potentially earning money from the same crowd.
Author 1: “I made my way over to the signing tent after my panel but there wasn’t a single bloody person there!”
Author 2: “Really? Why not?”
Author 1: “They were all at the Bob Brown panel.”
Author 2: “Ah, you got bob-browned.”