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This Is Northern New South Wales

Byron Bay Writers Festival – Chip Rolley

Chip Rolley

Winter in Byron isn’t quiet. Sure, we get a reprieve from the mayhem of summer, but there’s still plenty going on.

Last weekend the Splendour in the Grass bus rolled into town and took us on a ride; and this weekend it’s the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival!

The two festivals don’t have much in common except that they’re both internationally recognized events that draw a high caliber of performers and a passionate audience.

Common Ground wanted to get the inside word on what makes the Byron festival so special, so we spoke to Chip Rolley, who is the online editor of the ABC’s The Drum. Chip is well qualified, he was the artisitic director of the Sydney Writer’s Festival from 2010 – 2012 and he is effusive about what makes Byron’s event unique:

“It’s a standout festival, I’ve always loved Byron Bay. It’s got an incredible atmosphere. It’s got a spirit of freedom and I think the day-pass concept has a lot to do with that. It gives you the freedom to wander into whatever marquee or tent you feel like, as opposed to buying tickets for individual sessions. This ease of movement reflects the spirit of Byron Bay at large.

“…every major city has a festival these days. The festivals that stand out reflect the location in which they are set. The mechanics are all similar, but to stand out they need to make a feature of their location and Byron Bay does that with ease.”

Chip will be chairing a couple of sessions this weekend;

“One is with Glenn carl, ex CIA operative, the Interrogator. His story is fascinating, he was a CIA operative who interrogated a suspected terrorist, and it was thought this would help in finding Osama Bin Laden. It questions his role and the whole process, a deeply moral book and it asks some of the most difficult questions of the past ten years of the war and terror. I also want to hear his thoughts in the wake of the film Zero Dark Thirty. We’ll try to tease out the difference between Hollywood and reality.”

Chip’s other session will look at China and he will be joined by the cream of Australia’s journalists and thinkers, his guests include: George Megalogenis, Mungo McCallum, Maccine McKew and Karen Middleton.

“It’ll be great to look at the increasing role of China; our economic dependence and their insatiable appetite for our minerals. I’ll also be keen to look at our moral obligations; there are big human rights issues in China. There are questions of transparency, corruption. I want to find out how, while Australia is economically dependent on China, it can never the less prosecute its desire for international human rights that we all sign on to.

“It will be very interesting to speak with some hard nose political journalist about what they think, and how our two major parties feel in terms of their policies towards China. Rudd with his knowledge of Mandarin and Tony Abbott who takes a more libertarian approach.”

The festival starts today and runs till Sunday, don’t miss it…

“The festivals start a conversation, it sounds like an add line but its true. A lot of people come to events alone and the stimulation of the events starts a dialogue and discussions among those attending, people make friends it’s a great social environment, its like a party for nerds.”