Fiona McIntosh

Byron Bay Writers Festival 2011

Well, what a dream festival this was.  It was as though the organisers ordered the perfect weather for four days of incredibly enjoyable interaction between readers of all persuasions and authors, poets, playwrights, scriptwriters, commentators, comedians and social observers from across all genres and styles.  I met so many wonderful people but perhaps the highlight was the truly charming Belinda Jeffery, visiting me after one of my panels to say how much she’d enjoyed it and not only asking me to sign a copy of Fields of Gold but to give me a beautifully inscribed cookbook of hers about baking….because she was amused and delighted to hear about my baking exploits.  Can’t wait to work my way through all of Belinda’s down to earth recipes in Mix and Bake.  I was on a range of panels from the obvious – creating credible worlds – to the less obvious of helping aspiring writers understand the journey of a book from inception through to hitting the shelves and how it’s marketed by a global publisher.  Fantastically receptive, respectful and happy audiences that seemed just as comfortable to listen to a former politician through to a storybook writers for young children.  And that’s the beauty of this relaxed festival with its joyous vibe….it invites writers from the hugely popular to niche and the crowds trust the director’s judgement and gladly drift from tent to tent, sometimes without planning who to see or what to hear because the quality of the guests is so high, and it’s a given you’re going to have an enjoyable half hour or so no matter who is on that stage.  Beyond the day to day of the festival I caught the Paul Kelly concert, I made the obligatory trek to the Byron Bay Lighthouse and breakfasted at the delightful Byron Beach Cafe that lives up to its rah-rah; I walked beautiful Brokenhead Point and its beach and realised that it’s not Byron proper I’d want to live in but Bangalow.  Gorgeous!  And in a tiny spot called Newrybar sits a watering hole called Harvest that will knock your socks off whether it’s for dinner, or in our case, a scrumptious breakfast.  Order its maple-roasted muesli and know paradise!  Tasted some great coffee of course because coffee is grown resplendently in the Byron region and I was given a gift of two types of roasted beans so I can’t wait to taste those.  So this festival nurtured all of my passions and interests including chocolate when I discovered a lovely store in Bangalow with some of my favourite treats – Belgian dark chocolate licorice bullets as well as fat, glistening chocolate raspberries.  Yum!  If you can get to this festival next year, do so, you won’t be disappointed.  My sincere thanks and congratulations to Candida Baker and her fine team…no doubt already working on the 2012 event.