Thoughts from the BBWF 2016

After the National Young Writers Festivallast year, people would often ask me what the best part was. I would reply that it was the sea baths on Sunday night and that moment of catharsis when, all together, we plunged into the mirror dark water. For anyone who wasn’t physically there, this is a baffling answer. How, after spending four days at a festival that I had actually helped to program, could swimming be my favourite part?
But the thing about festivals (especially writers’ festivals, in my experience) is that they’re not really about the program. Or at least, they’re not just about that.
I haven’t been to the Byron Bay Writers in years. I used to go every year, when I was growing up, and adored it. But I’ve only been once as an adult. This year, I went with my mum and my friend Katie. Wonderful as the festival program was, my favourite parts were the things that happened in between.
On the first day, I spent the morning volunteering at the front gate. After many hectic hours of work – punctuated by sudden downpours and ticketing errors – we had lunch. One vollie ran and collected the sandwiches and we huddled under the tent for a minute, while the rush had flowed to the trickle. We talked and laughed, even though we’d only met a few hours before, eating sandwiches in that messy, hungry way that exhaustion warrants.

One night, my friend Lex organised an impromptu dinner at her parent’s shack where she was staying. Like everything Lex does, it was effortlessly lovely. Katie and I went over with roast veggie salad and brownies my mum had made. We spent the evening drifting in and out of the house, eating food and chatting to the mishmash of people. I laughed a lot. At the end of the night, everyone piled into a maxi taxi and we careered off into the night.
The next night, mum, Katie and I made pasta with pesto and broccoli. We drank rose and talked about the sessions we’d seen that day. We had a long and winding discussion and feminism and another about storytelling. We talked for hours and hours, listening and arguing in equal measure.

It doesn’t detract from the programming of the festival for the unofficial bits to be the most memorable. Rather it is a credit to the programming when a festival can facilitate these moments. Events like Byron bring together exciting people to have dinner with and raise ideas to be debated later over wine. That, at the end of the day, is what festivals are really for.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year