SPANISH: Victor del Arbol.
SPANISH: Victor del Arbol. Contributed

A festival that does it write for all the right reasons

WHERE do stories take you?

For more than 150 celebrated international and Australian writers, thinkers and commentators, stories will take them to the 20th Byron Writers Festival in August.

Heading the roll-call is lauded American satirist and political commentator P.J. O’Rourke, presented in collaboration with The Centre for Independent Studies as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations.

Destival director Edwina Johnson said the 2016 Festival Program reflects passions, persuasions and diverse perspectives.

WRITERS FESTIVAL: Byron Writers Festival Chair Chris Hanley and Director Edwina Johnson at Elements of Byron.
TOP DRAWER: Byron Writers Festival Chair Chris Hanley and Director Edwina Johnson at Elements of Byron. Christian Morrow

“(It) is underpinned by a fundamental belief in the importance and power of literature in shaping our lives,” she said.

“The age-old art of storytelling can have myriad impacts, least of all starting important community conversations about life and our place in the world.”

Among the international guests sharing their stories are best-selling UK novelist Louise Doughty (Black Water, Apple Tree Yard); Irish writer Evelyn Conlon whose epic novel Not The Same Sky traces the forced migration of young orphaned Irish girls to Australia.

There is also Spanish ex-police officer Victor del Arbol, whose novel The Day Before Almost Everything won this year’s Premio Nadal, Spain’s oldest and most prestigious literary award.

AMAZING: Author Pat Davern reads his new book Alexander the Elephant to his daughter Francesca. Photo Contributed
LOCAL: Bangalow author and musician Pat Davern. Contributed

Featured this year are three powerful Indian writers, poets and activists Sharanya Manivannan, Rosalyn D’Mello and Salma, whose works are featured in the anthology of personal narratives by contemporary Indian women Walking Towards Ourselves.

But it is not all just about (good, compelling) fiction.

The Byron Writers festival will be discussing particular topics during the event.

Post-election politics: With Bob Brown, Tony Windsor, Tim Fischer and John Faulkner, plus journalists and thinkers Kerry O’Brien, Sarah Ferguson, Anne Summers, Julia Baird, and Ross Coulthart. Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales will feature in a Literary Dinner outside the realm of politics.

Reconciliation and race: Journalist Stan Grant will deliver the annual Thea Astley Festival Address.

Images: Photo-journalists Ben Bohane, Tim Page, Gary Ramage, Cameron Bloom and celebrated Indonesian photographer and writer Rio Helmi will reveal the worlds through their lenses.

Education: John Marsden, Lucy Clark, Gabbie Stroud and Catherine Kennan will debate the pressing issues in education and literacy.

Children: Kids Big Day Out on Festival Sunday will offer a jam-packed, fun-filled program for the whole family where kids of all ages can meet and interact with their literary heroes.

This section will include Bangalow children’s authors Tristan Banks (My Life series) and Pat Davern (Alexander the Elephant in Zanzibar).

Young adults will be inspired by discussions with Kate Forsyth (The Impossible Quest series) while younger children can let their imaginations run wild with Anna Fienberg (Tashi series, Figaro and Rumba), Damon Young with Peter Carnavas (My Sister is a Superhero) and Nick Falk with Tony Flowers (Samurai vs Ninja).

Lifestyle: Musician Paul Kelly will discuss and sing Shakespeare; beloved cartoonist Michael Leunig will share his musings; while Robert Dessaix will reveal how Enid Blyton changed his life. Wendy Whiteley, Janet Hawley and Indira Naidoo will invite us into their gardens big and small.

AGNSW Director Dr Michael Brand together with artist Nigel Milsom and his subject Charles Waterstreet will unpack the Archibald Prize.

Finally, the tables will be turned on radio stars Richard Glover and Richard Fidler when they take their turns in the hot seat as interview subjects.

The festival will also travel outsiden the Byron Shire this year.

Magda Szubanski will be in Lismore for a conversation with Australian playwright Hannie Rayson, in association with NORPA at Lismore City Hall.

Festival Founder and Chair, Chris Hanley explained that partnerships have been forged with NORPA, Lennox Arts Board and Tweed Regional Gallery.

Pursuit of This Surfing Life will feature William Finnegan and former world champion surfer Mark Occhilupo in conversation with Sean Doherty at Lennox Head Cultural and Community Centre (in association with Lennox Arts Board).