Australia’s largest regional writers festival explores the theme of “Wild Imagination”

Featuring more than 120 writers, thinkers and commentators including Grace Tame, Richard Fidler, Heather Rose, Tracey Spicer, Nakkiah Lui, Myf Warhurst, Holly Ringland, Kevin Jared Hosein, Debra Dank, Robbie Arnott, Henry Reynolds, Ellen van Neerven, Pip Williams, Joel Birnie, Peggy Frew, Gabriel Krauze, Jeff Goodell, Rhoda Roberts, Mandy Nolan, Kate Morton and many more…


Byron Writers Festival 2023 (11-13 August) has revealed an inspiring program of celebrated authors and thinkers as well as powerful new voices to mark its 27th festival. Themed ‘Wild Imagination’, Byron Writers Festival 2023 will feature more than 120 writers and thinkers at a new site on beautiful Bundjalung Country in the hinterland town of Bangalow, 15 minutes from Byron Bay. The festival also offers writers’ workshops, an engaging program for children and several feature and satellite events in venues across the Northern Rivers.

In curating the program, CEO & Artistic Director Zoë Pollock reflected on the theme of ‘Wild Imagination’. “As humans, our imagination is our superpower. It has set us apart, enabled us to create and transform the world. As the climate crisis is teaching us, we must harness it more than ever. We must imagine a new world – one where the wild is free. At this year’s Byron Writers Festival we present our leading storytellers, in wildly creative and daring conversations that envision our world anew and bring the power of imagination to the fore.”

International guests include Booker Prize longlisted debut novelist Gabriel Krauze (UK) whose visceral, autobiographical novel Who They Was gives a transfixing first-hand account of the violent world of London gang warfare; investigative journalist Anke Richter (NZ) who immersed herself in the wild world of cults around the globe; and Dr Robert Waldinger (USA), Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Zen Priest and one of the directors of the longest study of happiness in the world. Also travelling to the festival from overseas are Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad) author of the breakthrough historical novel Hungry Ghosts set in 1940s colonial Trinidad; Heat author Jeff Goodell (USA) who has been at the forefront of environmental journalism for three decades; writer, journalist and broadcaster Hayley Campbell (UK), whose absorbing book, All the Living and the Dead, explores society’s attitudes towards death, and the impact on those who work with it every day; and UK-based Albanian author Lea Ypi who is Professor of Political Theory at the London School of Economics and author of Free: Coming of Age at the End of History, a philosophical memoir of her experiences growing up in Stalinist Albania.

Fiction lovers will be delighted by in-depth conversations with bestselling novelists Pip Williams (The Bookbinder Of Jericho), Kate Morton (Homecoming), Peggy Frew (Wildflowers), Gail Jones (Salonika Burning), Holly Ringland (The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding) and Robbie Arnott (Limberlost). Audiences will also be captivated by the true-life stories contained within the stunning memoirs of Briohny Doyle (Why We Are Here), Debra Dank (We Come With This Place), Heather Rose (Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here) and Marele Day (Reckless).

Activist, survivor-advocate Grace Tame shares her story and her vision for a better future as captured in her superb memoir, Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner. Musician Bertie Blackman, in conversation with Sarah Kanowski, takes audiences inside the magic and vulnerability of her bohemian childhood growing up as the daughter of iconic artist Charles Blackman. Myf Warhurst’s joyous memoir Time of My Life will unleash the music within us all. Myf also hosts the session ‘My Wildest Dream’ where three brilliant comic writers Oliver Pommavanh, Shirley Le and Mandy Nolan share their wildest dreams and the day they came true.

In one of the most exciting book releases for 2023, Anna Funder, prize winning author of Stasiland and All That I Am, will join the festival line up to discuss her genre breaking book, Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life. Described as ‘simply, a masterpiece’ by Geraldine Brooks, the book is sure to set off some compelling conversations around the true contribution of women to literature.

Walkley Award-winning journalist Tracey Spicer gives much needed insight into Artificial Intelligence from her deeply researched, gripping investigation Man-Made: How The Bias Of The Past Is Being Built Into The Future and Richard Fidler opens The Book of Roads and Kingdoms’ during Islam’s fabled Golden Age. Award-winning writer Ellen van Neerven shares their Personal Score, a deep dive into sport’s troubled relationship with race, gender and sexuality. Author Zena Cumpston celebrates the deep cultural significance of plants and shows how First Nations knowledge can be the key to a healthier, more sustainable future.

Revered historian Henry Reynolds will deliver the annual Thea Astley Address which will reflect on his journey writing Australian history over six decades. Monica Attard, Paddy Manning, Osman Faruqi and Amy Remeikis will explore the future of journalism in the annual Mungo McCallum Panel.

‘I am thrilled to be bringing this incredible line up of leading authors and thinkers and more to our beautiful new site in Bangalow on Bundjalung Country. This year we have embraced our popular day-pass model and designed the festival experience around five themed venues that encourage audiences to be guided by their mood and interests when exploring the program. We have four outdoor marquees; Deep Dives, a place for reflective one-on-one conversations, Ideas Salon will bring topical debate and ideas to the fore, Mind Spa will be a space to restore and revive the mind and Play Zone will create a series of joyful experiences for young and old. Finally, the charming heritage A&I Hall will take on a new life as the Imaginarium – where the wild creativity of our best literary authors will be celebrated and a green future imagined for all,’ Pollock said.

Northern Rivers Writers
Byron Writers Festival proves that the Northern Rivers remains a creative hotspot in 2023 with over 30 local writers, thinkers, artists and performers featured at this year’s festival including Marele Day (Reckless), Sally Colin-James (One Illumined Thread), Kayte Nunn (The Only Child), Hilton Koppe (One Curious Doctor), Amanda Reichelt-Brushett (Marine Pollution) and many more.

Feature Events
The 2023 Byron Writers Festival will open with a ‘Calling to Country’ hosted by Traditional Owner, Delta Kay and curated by Rhoda Roberts. During the festival, attendees are invited to sit down with Bundjalung elders and weavers in a ‘Weaving and Yarning Circle’ to celebrate the launch of the book Bulaan Buruugaa Ngali, We Weave Together with Arts Northern Rivers. The festival will close with voices raised in song with attendees invited to join in the joyous community Shire Choir experience.

Separately ticketed evening events include the ‘Wild Imagination’ keynote event where Grace Tame, Gabriel Krauze, Kevin Jared Hosein, Jess Scully and Ellen van Neerven unleash their imaginations to envision possibilities for our future. This keynote event at the Imaginarium in Bangalow’s A&I Hall on Friday evening also features a special performance by Emily Lubitz and Janet Swain with the After The Flood Choir. On Saturday night ‘Voices in the Wild’ presents fresh, powerful voices for a cabaret of spoken word with Maxine Beneba Clarke, Madison Godfrey, Miles Merrill, Sarah Temporal, Jo Yang and the winners of two Poetry Slams held during the festival. Hosted by David Stavanger.

For the full offering of separately ticketed Feature and Satellite Events in venues throughout the region please visit

Saturday PM Under 35s Pass
This year the Byron Writers Festival is introducing a ‘Saturday PM Under 35s Pass’ that gives people 35 years of age or under access to the festival on Saturday 12 August from 2pm for $35. Audiences are invited to get a taste of the festival experience on their Saturday PM Pass, with access to twelve sessions that span a range of topics including memoir (Grace Tame in conversation), music making (Bertie Blackman in ‘Wild Notes’), sport’s complicated relationship with race (Ellen van Neerven in ‘Personal Score’) and gender euphoria (Madison Godfrey in ‘Dress Rehearsals’). For all ticket types go to

Kids Big Day Out
The kids get a whole marquee to themselves on Sunday morning to meet and be entertained by their favourite authors and illustrators in the hugely popular Kids Big Day Out program. Stage presentations feature Lucas Proudfoot, Eliza Hull, Charmaine Ledden-Lewis, Oliver Phommavanh, Solli Raphel, Amie Kaufman and Zanni Louise, alongside StoryBoard’s popular StorySpace workshops to keep the kids busy.

About Byron Writers Festival
Held on the lands of the Arakwal Bumberbin peoples of the Bundjalung Nation, we pay respect to the traditional owners of these lands and acknowledge them as the original storytellers of this region

The annual Byron Writers Festival is Australia’s largest and leading regional celebration of storytelling, literature and ideas. The line-up predominantly features Australian writers and thinkers who together share their stories, inspirations and insights. Byron Writers Festival is renowned for its relaxed atmosphere and for delivering a diverse program of panels and conversations that celebrate storytelling in all its forms. This year’s Byron Writers Festival will be held at the Bangalow Showgrounds in the hinterland town of Bangalow, 15 minutes from Byron Bay on beautiful Bundjalung Country. Free shuttle buses will be operating daily from Byron Bay.

Byron Writers Festival 2023
Festival Dates: 11 — 13 August 2023

All tickets now on sale
including $35 Under35 Sat PM tickets

Sarah Armstrong, Robbie Arnott, Michelle Arrow, Monica Attard, Bebe Backhouse, Tristan Bancks, Paul Barclay, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Joel Birnie, Jemma Birrell, Bertie Blackman, Frank Bongiorno, Rudi Bremer, Hayley Campbell, Grace Chan, Shankari Chandran, Nicholas Clements, Alan Close, Sally Colin-James, Matthew Condon, Carody Culver, Zena Cumpston, Debra Dank, André Dao, Marele Day, Brigid Delaney, Briohny Doyle, Jill Eddington, Russell Eldridge, Dan Etheridge, Osman Faruqi, Anna Featherstone, Richard Fidler, Karen Foxlee, Peggy Frew, Anna Funder, Antony Funnell, Kári Gíslason, Madison Godfrey, Jeff Goodell, Ahona Guha, Chris Hanley, Ashley Hay, Eliza Henry-Jones, Ben Hobson, Eliza Hull, Hakea Hustler, Zacharey Jane, Kevin Jared Hosein, Erik Jensen, Suneel Jethani, Susan Johnson, Gail Jones, Sarah Kanowski, Amie Kaufman, Delta Kay, Misha Ketchell, James Kirby, Jessica Kirkness, Hilton Koppe, Gabriel Krauze, Shirley Le, Cheryl Leavy, Charmaine Ledden-Lewis, Antony Loewenstein, Zanni Louise, Grace Lucas-Pennington, Nakkiah Lui, Maggie MacKellar, Paddy Manning, Phillipa McGuinness, Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, Paul Memmott, Miles Merrill, Carl Merrison, Courtney Miller, Naomi Moran, Kate Morton, Mandy Nolan, Kayte Nunn, Isabelle Oderberg, Mark Olive, Alison Page, Kirk Page, Jacinta Parsons, Rhianna Patrick, Alison Pennington, Oliver Phommavanh, Peter Polites, Lucas Proudfoot, Solli Raphael, Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, Amy Remeikis, Henry Reynolds, Anke Richter, Holly Ringland, Rhoda Roberts, Ben Roche, David Roland, Heather Rose, Rebecca Rushbrook, Nell Schofield, Julianne Schultz, Jess Scully, Jonathan Seidler, Mark Smith, Tracey Spicer, Mary Spongberg, David Stavanger, Kerry Sunderland, Grace Tame, Sarah Temporal, Sandra Thom-Jones, Ellen van Neerven, Sonya Voumard, Robert Waldinger, Myf Warhurst, Michael Williams, Pip Williams, Susan Wyndham, Jo Yang, Lea Ypi, Kristine Ziwica.