Carmen, 7, and Hannah, 9, Stock of Lennox Head with Simba and Sooty.
Carmen, 7, and Hannah, 9, Stock of Lennox Head with Simba and Sooty.

New chapter for book festival

NEW director of the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival Candy Baker estimates she’s had around three hours sleep over the weekend – but that hasn’t stopped her from dreaming.

“I couldn’t sleep last night. I was wide awake planning what I’ll do at next year’s festival,” Ms Baker said.

“I’m absolutely thrilled and proud with what we’ve achieved this year.

"I think it’s the best festival we’ve ever had, but next year will be even better.”

It would appear this year’s festival goers agreed with Ms Baker, with the box office selling out on Saturday and overall ticket sales the highest in the festival’s 15-year history.

This year’s Feel the Passion theme saw the festival widen its range of artists from writers to sculptors and performers – including the singer Kamahl reciting poetry – but the feel-good atmosphere of the festival was definitely heightened by the increased number of comedians in the line-up, Ms Baker said.

“I caught the Charlie Pickering session on Saturday and it was hilarious,” she said.

“The great thing about comedians is they don’t hold back.

"They leave no stone unturned.

"You watch as the audience gasp that the comedian went “there”.

Other highlights this year, Baker said, included outspoken journalist John Pilger giving the keynote address.

“It was astonishing to see the age-range that Pilger attracted to the tent.

"We had 15-year-olds through to the elderly,” she said.

Attracting a new, young audience to the festival was one of this year’s goals, Ms Baker said, with the children’s program moved to Sunday to cater for sporting commitments many family’s had on Saturdays.

The result was a packed ABC-3 tent yesterday, where children’s authors such as Alison Lester and Dirtgirl creator Cate McQuillan kept young audiences enthralled.

To engage its younger readers, this year’s program extended itself beyond books and the written word into sculpture, performance and even story dogs – a reading support program where children read to an animal.

“Kids are our future readers,” Ms Baker said.

Lennox Head mother Michelle Stock brought her three children with her for the first time this year.

“They loved that many of the sessions were interactive and they could get up to talk to the author,” Ms Stock said.



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