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  • Writer's pictureMary Roberts


The North Coast of New South Wales makes a specialty of producing festivals. There must be more festivals per head of population there than anywhere else on the planet. It is surely the festival capital of Australia. Besides the well known music ones, Falls, Splendour, Bluefest and Mullum Music Fest, they have the Sample food Festival and the Bangalow BBQ and Bluegrass Festival. Murwillumbah has its annual Banana Festival and now I believe, it has what is the regions newest Festival , the Murwillumbah Country Roots Festival. The Byron Latin Dance festival is something quite different again and it is celebrating its tenth year.

Each of these festivals has its own particular buzz. The bus driver taking us out on the first morning to the Byron bay Writers’ Festival remarked what a different crowd we were from the Splendour crowd just a few short days before. Now, why is that not surprising? The region has surely proved itself in organizing festivals - so its no wonder that Byron Bays Writers Festival is so outstanding in its class.

Record crowds, perfect winter weather and a feast of ideas from writers and thinkers, economists and journalists, storytellers and poets left the crowd invigorated and inspired. Every day there were big ideas and debates. They covered all sorts of subjects with knowledgeable debates covering multiple topics including history and politics, music and surfing, social trends and climate change.

In the big cities these things are happening too of course and in a bigger and grander scale in most ways. However, in Byron Bay it is all happening in the one big area, everything all together, and there is a buzz about that is not possible to be generated in diverse venues with competition from so much else, non festival activities, going on at any one time.

Here guest politicians, novelist, historians, journalist, biographers, all sorts of celebrated people, are given their own space, their marquee, within the festival area. There is particular pleasure even in standing in the lunch queue and hearing, or joining in, discussion about the earlier sessions, and sharing anticipation of what is yet to come.

One of their initiatives this year and of special interest to me was the Self Published Opportunity. This was a wonderful initiative and was able to give people, moving into this new area of self-publishing books, a chance to put their book in front of people, giving us an opportunity to showcase and promote our own books. As there are about 2500 guests to the festival site each day there were plenty of people passing by and able to stop to see what we were doing. Depending on what the authors were hoping to achieve – book sales, networking, increased profile, direction to our blog or website or just engage with readers – plenty of passing traffic gave us a chance to do this. There was a wonderful opportunity for us to present our book to the public.

There were twenty-four people who had the opportunity of presenting in the self publishing marque, but it was organized so that no more than six were there at any one time.

The first group on Friday was a group of locals, people who actually lived in Byron Bay or very close and they covered all sorts of different things. This first session was called, not surprisingly, ‘ The Locals’. The second was called ‘Byron Bounty’ and there were books on the abundant produce of Byron recipes and lifestyles from organic vegan cooking to surf portraits including a lot of art and photography. The last session on Friday was called ‘Alternate Universes ‘and these will very much lower one was called visions of chaos.

The first session on Saturday was called ‘Flock of Fiction’ and this is where my novel fitted in and we had our time from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM that morning. We were a mixed lot too, from a story about loves and lives in conflict in WW2, walking the Camino and my Australian rural romance. Then from 12 to 2 they had ‘ Watching the Detectives ‘. Three people who had written murder mysteries had decorated their tables with red tablecloths and produced quite an atmosphere of blood and gore and police crime scenes. Later that afternoon there were ‘People’s Stories ‘which included several very different biographical stories. There were a lot of very different things happening in those stories.

It was a great thrill to be able to take my book. ‘Opal Ridge ‘ to the Byron Bay Writers Festival. This is Australia's largest regional, literary event and there is something very special about it. It was a privilege to be included.

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