Its a fact, focus on media proves popular at festival
MEDIA was the focus of this year's Byron Bay Writers Festival and director Jeni Caffin said a suitable climate attracted unprecedented interest. A pending Federal election, a multi-media environment, and a public keen to delve into the workings of media made for a popular festival. In fact, the emphasis on hard fact seemed to attract more men to the festival. The inclusion of well known media 'giants' sparked plenty of interest and Sunday's forum 'The heart of the media: Maintaining integrity in a cynical world' proved the festival's most popular. Featuring David Leser, David Marr, Fran Kelly and Chris Masters and chaired by Jennifer Byrne, the session was packed. "It was galvanising to see the giants of media swapping ideas so generously," Ms Caffin noted. Along with postcard perfect weather, other highlights included David Marr's opening lecture which was 'funny, political and electric'. Northern Territory journalist Nicolas Rothwell's lecture 'Is there landscape in Australia' was so poignant that his employer, The Australian, plans to print the wordfest entirely sometime in August. But you heard it first in Byron. Ms Caffin said despite the competition for attention from so many different types of media in today's world, reading remained a favourite, with book sales alive and well. "It is very hard to take a computer onto the beach," she said. "A book can be folded up and tucked under your pillow. There is something tactile about a book. You can hold it, you can smell the paper. "People want to be informed, entertained and transported and you can do it so easily on the pages of a book." Northern Star Editor and festival committee member Russell Eldridge said it was remarkable how each festival grew a personality of its own. "But every year, what underpins the festival is a passionate interest from the audience in discussing Australia," Mr Eldridge said. "People devour discussions about our past, present and future, whether it's through books, news media, blogging or whatever. "The festival is like a feast for the mind. And we are so privileged to have some of the country's finest minds exercising their thoughts in public. "And the beauty of such an intimate festival is you can carry on the conversation with an author over a coffee or glass of wine," he said.