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Writers festival is officially opened
Posted by Byron Movement on 2012-04-23 14:39:16.0

We lack sovereignty: Pilger

Journalist, broadcastor and author, John Pilger, told a packed Writers’ Festival audience that as a country, Australia needs to find its indentity in the face of total compliance to US foreign policy.
Excited, nervous and tired were the emotions expressed by new Director Candida Baker on the eve of this year’s Byron Bay Writers’ Festival. The official opening attracted around 200 people, a mix of writers, publishers, locals and visitors poised to participate in what is considered the biggest regional writers’ festival in the country. Chairman of the Northern Rivers Writers’ Centre, Chris Hanley, said that there were probably more people attending this year than there had ever been before. The evening was officially opened by journalist Mick O’Regan. Indigenous actor/writer Rhoda Roberts, who grew up in Lismore, then endeared herself to the crowd by welcoming everyone to country before going on to say that, ‘Welcome To Country [ceremonies] have got a bit out of hand lately, I think. You don’t have to do it every time you get up to speak – it gets a bit tokenistic.’ A fi rst for the Festival was also the awarding of a sculpture prize. Judged by Betty Churcher, the first prize of $8000 went to Daniel Clemmett and was announced by festival curator Dev Lengjel. Drinks and canapes were suspended as vice-chancellor of Southern Cross University, Professor Peter Lee, said festivals such as this one made Byron Bay the place it was, before introducing festival highlight Louis de Bernières. Having been warned by Ms Baker that at a previous opening night the keynote speaker had spoken for nearly two hours, Mr de Bernières kept it very short. ‘I suggested to Candida that holding a writers’ festival must be like keeping kittens in a box,’ he said, ‘but she said it was more like herding cows.’ He said that writing his latest book The Red Dog was ‘the best fun in my life.’ According to the Dendy’s Rose Fox, tickets to the film based on that book had sold out completely. The red dog itself was somewhere in the audience, punctuating the speeches with occasional barks. Locals Peter and Victoria Thompson told The Echo that they had been coming to the Writers’ Festival from the very beginning. ‘I think there’s a very real sense of community and camaraderie,’ said Peter. ‘It’s remarkably successful and it’s something Byron should be proud of.’