Justice Michael Kirby signing books.
Justice Michael Kirby signing books.

Festival finds its roots

A LINE-UP packed with renowned public figures was always going to attract a big crowd to the 2012 Byron Bay Writers' Festival.

Director Jonathan Parsons said this year's festival, held from Friday until yesterday, was the most popular in the event's 15-year history.

Panel speakers included former Greens leader Bob Brown, young adventurer Jessica Watson and retired High Court of Australia judge Michael Kirby.

"It's been very much about bringing the festival back to its core, which is about having a really strong program across the five marquees and celebrating writ- ers," Mr Parsons said.

On Saturday in the festival's Red Marquee, accomplished Australian journalists discussed how to publicly "grill" evasive politicians.

"Politicians and their minders are really calculating these days and go to some lengths to avoid being grilled," three-time Walkley Award winner Sally Neighbour told a 200-strong crowd.

ABC News 24 political editor Chris Uhlmann revealed his grilling and badgering of politicians had led to some interesting reactions.

"There was a famous letter from Paul Keating recently where I joined the long list of people that he hates ... I wear it as a badge of honour," Mr Uhlmann said.

Many up-and-coming writers who attended the festival took inspiration from accomplished authors on show.

Lennox Head-based writer Ali Chigwidden said the experience had been a "shot in the arm".

"I find it really inspiring.

"It's the sculptures, the writers and you kind of want to be up there one day," she said.

"It makes me want to go home and start to write again."



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