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School kids get Byron Bay Writers' Festival underway

STORYBOOK EVENT: Students at the Writer’s Festival listening to Tales from the Green Room: Surfers on Surfing with Gary ‘Kong’ Elkerton and Bob McTavish.
STORYBOOK EVENT: Students at the Writer’s Festival listening to Tales from the Green Room: Surfers on Surfing with Gary ‘Kong’ Elkerton and Bob McTavish. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

IN HER first stint as director of the Byron Bay Writers Festival, Edwina Johnson has been thrown in the deep end having to establish a new site for this year's event.

The festival kicked off with its schools' program yesterday in a new, southern section of the North Byron Events site, formerly Byron Beach Resort, while the resort is being redeveloped.

Yesterday, however, Ms Johnson was taking the changes in her stride - praising her team for the work that has gone into establishing a brand new home for the festival from scratch.

"We have had to bring all of the infrastructure in ourselves - from marquees to electricity and water," she said.

While festival patrons familiar with the old layout may find themselves disoriented on first glance this weekend, the new site has many advantages, Ms Johnson said.

"It feels more intimate here; there are more trees and the space has a natural amphitheatre feel to it."

While the changes have added extra costs to the festival, these have been balanced by record sales this year, she said.

Yesterday close to 800 secondary students flocked to the festival site for a day-program themed around the new 2015 English curriculum of Discovery, Travel, Curiosity and Wonder with speakers including surfer Bob McTavish regaling them with tales of riding 25ft waves in Hawaii back in 1967 to author Poe Ballantine talking on Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere.

Author Robyn Davidson, who travelled solo across the Australian desert with only a herd of camels in the 1970s was one of yesterday's inspiring speakers, with 17-year-old Year 11 Xavier student, Mariah Bowers happy to have Ms Davies autograph her book.

A FEW FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

  • Bob Brown in conversation with David Leser, Saturday, 9am in SCU Marquee
  • Conversations with Poe Valentine and Richard Fidler at the Byron Theatre, Friday 5pm
  • Malcolm Fraser with Kerry O'Brien, Saturday, Macquarie Marquee, 1:30pm
  • Kids Big Day Out - Sunday, 9.20-2pm in Womankind Marquee

Topics:  byron bay writers' festival



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