Highest ever box office sales at 2019 Byron Writers Festival; Indigenous authors dominate bestsellers
This year’s Byron Writers Festival attracted the highest box office sales in its 23-year history, according to event organisers.
The festival, which ran from 2–4 August in Byron Bay, attracted more than 12,000 attendees, with capacity crowds recorded at several events, including Behrouz Boochani’s appearance via live stream from Manus Island, the discussion between Tara June Winch and Melissa Lucashenko, Uncle Jack Charles’ conversation with Adam Shoemaker, and Bruce Pascoe’s session with Kerry O’Brien, with the latter two sessions both receiving standing ovations. Other popular sessions attracting huge crowds were the ‘Resilience and Strength During Adversity’ panel discussion, featuring Tim Costello, Chloe Hooper and Leigh Sales, as well as the ‘Family Saga’ panel, with Jennifer Clement, Min Jin Lee, Markus Zusak and Benjamin Law.
In its 23rd year, Byron Writers Festival hosted more than 140 local and international guests across 121 on-site events, 17 off-site events, 15 workshops, a schools program for primary- and secondary-school students, and a road trip to regional towns. The festival again partnered with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and raised more than $8000 for the charity.
Festival director Edwina Johnson said her personal highlight was the appearance of Boochani via live stream from Manus Island. ‘There are always so many highlights but this year the power and emotion in the room at Behrouz Boochani’s session (appearing via live stream from Manus Island) with his wonderful collaborator and translator Omid Tofighian—that will stay with me forever,’ said Johnson.
Local Byron Bay bookseller The Book Room Collective was the festival’s official bookseller. Owner John Mitchell commented on the concentration of Indigenous authors in the top 10, which reflected the strong representation of Indigenous writers on this year’s program.
The bestselling books were:
- No Friend but the Mountains (Behrouz Boochani, Picador)
- Dark Emu (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala)
- The Yield (Tara June Winch, Hamish Hamilton)
- Women Men and the Whole Damn Thing (David Leser, A&U)
- Young Dark Emu: A truer history (Bruce Pascoe, Magabala)
- 2040: A Household Handbook for the Regeneration (Damon Gameau, Macmillan)
- Too Much Lip (Melissa Lukashenko, UQP)
- Bridge of Clay (Markus Zusak, Picador)
- The Erratics (Vicki Laueau-Harvie, Fourth Estate)
- Pachinko (Min Jin Lee, Head of Zeus).
(Photo credit J Miller Photography)