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Byron Writers Festival announces full 2017 Program

Byron Writers Festival_Kids Big Day Out _credit photo Kalem Horn copy

Byron Writers Festival (4-6 August) reveals an exciting and compelling program featuring more than 130 guests. The 3-Day 2017 Festival will unfold across six stages at the stunning beachside Festival site, and will be complemented by diverse writers’ workshops, satellite events and literary dinners throughout Byron Bay and the wider Northern Rivers region.

‘The 21st Byron Writers Festival program aims to soar high across many different dominions. We seek to inspire, engage and cultivate accessible conversations between our writer guests and avid audiences,’ said Festival Director, Edwina Johnson.

‘We are especially proud of this year’s Program ­– for its cultural diversity, scope and probing amalgamation of important topics and different writing genres.’

Acclaimed Australian novelists include Kate Grenville, Ashley Hay, Anita Heiss, Hannah Kent, A.S. Patric, Nicolas Rothwell, Kim Scott and Byron Bay based Rob Drewe who will launch his new novel Whipbird at the Festival. They join a best-selling line-up of Australian crime writers, including David Free, Mirandi Riwoe (M.J. Tjia), Michael Robotham and Jock Serong.

ABIA Award winner and rock icon Jimmy Barnes will discuss his bestselling memoir. Legendary singer and songwriter Tex Perkins will reveal his newly released autobiography. The two will come together for a special ABC Radio National session with presenter Sarah KanowskiSarah Blasko will feature in a one-on-one conversation with The Saturday Paper’s Erik Jensen as well as a Music Makers session with musician and novelist Holly Throsby.
Jimmy Barnes credit Stephanie Barnes copy

Richard Roxburgh and Andrew Knight take us behind the scenes of the hugely popular TV-series Rake. Roxburgh will also entertain at Kids Big Day Out with his first children’s book Artie and The Grime Wave. In his startlingly honest memoir My Idol Years seventies pop star, barrister and Australian Idol judge Mark Holden spins the chair for us on the TV and music industries.

Master illusionist and escapologist Cosentino will share his greatest trick – how he learned to read – and was transformed from a bullied isolated 12-year-old boy with learning difficulties to one of the world’s most popular magicians. Sudanese refugee Deng Adut will recount his journey from child soldier to lawyer and 2017 NSW Australian of the Year alongside his co-author Ben Mckelvey.

Other highlight memoirists and biographers include Caroline Baum, Jane Hutcheon, Nikki Gemmell and Kim Mahood whose Position Doubtful Tim Winton nominated as his 2016 favourite book saying: ‘If anyone’s written more beautifully and modestly about this country and its people I’m not aware of it. I think it’s a treasure.’

Politics, much-needed debate and a good dose of humour will shine a light on the key issues facing Australians and the world when leading commentators take Festival centre-stage. Peter FitzSimons argues The Case for a Republic in the annual Thea Astley Lecture; satirist John Safran and respected journalist David Marr unravel the second coming of Pauline Hanson and the socio-political landscape that has given rise to the likes of Trump. Susan Carland makes the case that feminism and Islam can be complementary in Fighting Hislam; The Hon. Dr Barry Jones takes us on a journey through the music and literature that has inspired him, while Gold Walkley award-winning reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna gives insight into her investigative journalism for ABC TV Four Corners.

The hugely popular Best of Insiders event returns to Byron Theatre with host Barrie Cassidy and panelists Malcolm Farr, David Marr and Laura Tingle taking us through all the big political developments of 2017. The Festival also pays tribute one of our greats, John Clarke, with a special evening event at Elements of Byron featuring Bryan Dawe and Andrew Knight.

The Festival also features media luminaries Julia Baird, Paul Barclay, Jennifer Byrne, Richard Fidler, Clementine Ford, Peter Helliar, John Lyons, Kerry O’Brien, Tracey Spicer, Lisa Wilkinson and Tony Jones who will talk about his debut novel and political thriller The Twentieth Man.
Clementine Ford

Charlie Veron, known as ‘the Godfather of Coral’, invites us to explore the wonders of his Life Underwater. He will also introduce a special screening of a startling documentary ‘Chasing Coral’. Lawrie Zion takes us into the eye of the storm with Our Weather Obsession. Acclaimed scientist Tim Flannery investigates exciting new technologies with Sunlight and Seaweed. Best-selling author and long-time farmer with a PhD in social change Charles Massy discusses regenerative agriculture, while Bruce Pascoe challenges the claim that pre-colonial Aboriginal society was essentially a hunter-gatherer society in his award-winning book Dark Emu.

Kate Cole-Adams explores of the gift of oblivion with Anaesthesia; and David Gillespie reveals the science of identifying and dealing with psychopaths at work and home with Taming Toxic People. Numbers nerd Adam Spencer will encourage us to get our geek on and beloved broadcaster and author of more than 15 books Robyn Williams will guide us through 40 years of ABC Radio National’s Science Show.

Art critic for The Boston Globe Sebastian Smee paints a fascinating picture of four friendships, betrayals, and breakthroughs in modern art in The Art of Rivalry. Artists Joshua Yeldham, Venkat Shyam, and Kim Mahood come together with Jill Eddington to discuss Making Art About Country.

International guests travelling to Byron Bay include US novelist Kayla Rae Whitaker whose debut novel The Animators is a dazzling story of female friendship; one of Indonesia’s most influential writers Eka Kurniawan; and celebrated columnist for The New York Times Roger Cohen. They will be joined by acclaimed UK writer and foreign affairs reporter Christina Lamb; Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Mei Fong whose recent book One Child reveals the true cost of China’s one-child policy, and by Indian-born British writer, lecturer and broadcaster Kenan Malik who traces the developments from The Satanic Verses to Charlie Hebdo in his book From Fatwa to Jihad.

Award-winning science writer Dava Sobel looks to the stars to reveal the hidden history of female astronomers in The Glass Universe, while American biology professor David George Haskell puts a stethoscope to nature’s most magnificent networkers and listens to The Song of Trees. Celebrated New York based philosophy professor Emrys Westacott shows us why less-is-more and shares The Wisdom of Frugality.

On her recent Australia Council trip to India, Festival Director Edwina Johnson encountered many wonderful writers, artists and speakers. Three will feature at the Festival – novelist and poet Kunal Basu, novelist and performance storyteller Vayu Naidu and celebrated Gond artist and now published author Venkat Shyam.

Kids Big Day Out on Festival Sunday offers a jam-packed, fun-filled program for the whole family with a huge array of activities for kids of all ages including the chance to meet their literary heroes. On hand to spark their imaginations will be Hilary Badger, Tristan Bancks, Morris Gleitzman, Peter Helliar, Lucas Proudfoot, Sally Rippin, and Richard Roxburgh.

The Festival is again partnering with local arts organisations to present additional Feature Events outside Byron Bay. These include Jimmy Barnes in conversation with Matt Condon at Lennox Head Cultural & Community Centre Saturday 5 August (Partner: Lennox Arts Board); John Safran in conversation with Bec Mac at Lismore City Hall Friday 4 August (Partner: NORPA); and Joshua Yeldham who will open his exhibition Endurance at the Tweed Regional Gallery Friday 4 August. These events complement other Feature Events, Performances and Literary Dinners throughout the Festival. Patrons are advised to book early for these in-demand sessions.

Byron Writers Festival 2017 will unfold from 4-6 August in the beautiful grounds of Elements of Byron resort.

It will be preceded by a series of hands-on skills development writing Workshops commencing on 31 July and the annual Festival Schools Programs for primary and secondary school children across the region. The Byron Writers Festival Road Trip will feature spoken word artist Miles Merrill and novelists Sophie Green and Jennifer Down aboard the StoryBoard bus that is headed to Casino, Glen Innes and Tenterfield.

Byron Writers Festival

All tickets on sale now
Festival Dates: 4-6 August 2017
Tickets: or call (02) 6685 5115


Nicole Abadee, Deng Thiak Adut, Sarah Armstrong, Melissa Ashley, Hilary Badger, Julia Baird, Tristan Bancks, Paul Barclay, Jimmy Barnes, Kuna Basu, Caroline Baum, Jesse Blackadder, Sarah Blasko, Merlinda Bobis, Lisa Brockwell, Phil Brown, Jennifer Byrne, Edna Carew, Susan Carland, Barrie Cassidy, Alan Close, Roger Cohen, Kate Cole-Adams, Matt Condon, Cosentino, Arielle Cottingham, Bryan Dawe, Tony Doherty, Jennifer Down, Rob Drewe, Jill Eddington, Malcolm Farr, Richard Fidler, Angie Fiedler, Peter FitzSimons, Tim Flannery, Mei Fong, Andrew Ford, Clementine Ford, David Free, Antony Funnell, Nikki Gemmell, David Gillespie, Madeline Gleeson, Morris Gleitzman, Roanna Gonsalves, Kate Grenville, Sophie Hamley, Chris Hanley, Peter Harrison, David George Haskell, Lynda Hawryluk, Ashley Hay, Jerath Head, Jim Hearn, Anita Heiss, Peter Helliar, Lex Hirst, Mark Holden, Rebecca Huntley, Jane Hutcheon, Graeme Innes, Zacharey Jane, Erik Jensen, Barry Jones, Tony Jones, Sarah Kanowski, Delta Kay, Hannah Kent, Andrew Knight, Anneli Knight, Ben Knight, Laura Kroetsch, Eka Kurniawan, Christina Lamb, Steven Lang, Meshel Laurie, Sylvie Le Clezio , Bri Lee, David Leser, Hans Lovejoy, John Lyons, Bec Mac, Kim Mahood, Kenan Malik, David Marr, Pippa Masson, Charles Massy, Ben McKelvey, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, Miles Merrill, Rosemarie Milsom, Vayu Naidu, Mandy Nolan, Kerry O’Brien, Mick O’Regan, Bruce Pascoe, AS Patric, Tex Perkins, Ailsa Piper, Lucas Proudfoot, Alice Pung, Karen Radzyner, Sally Riley, Sally Rippin, Mirandi Riwoe, Michael Robotham, Henry Rosenbloom, Nicholas Rothwell, Richard Roxburgh, Magdalena Roze, Jonathan Safran, Michael Sala, Julianne Schultz, Kim Scott, Jock Serong, Adam Shoemaker, Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, Sebastian Smee, Dava Sobel, Adam Spencer, Tracey Spicer, Adam Suckling, Heather Taylor Johnson, Peter Thompson, Holly Throsby, Laura Tingle, Ian Townsend, Charlie Veron, Sandy Verschoor, Lisa Walker, Wendy Were, Emrys Westacott, Kayla Rae Whitaker, Lisa Wilkinson, Robyn Williams, Geordie Williamson, Susan Wyndham, Josh Yeldham, Lawrie Zion.

For bios please visit

Byron Writers Festival_Faces _credit Evan Malcolm unspecified-8