Rewriting the tradition – Byron Bay Writers Festival
For the past 12 years (minus one or two). I have come to the Byron Bay Writers Festival with friends from the Nambucca Valley Writers Group. We started in 2001 with a trio, and gradually each year, more and more people would be added to the mix, until last year we numbered 10 with a large age span that equalled a generation.
It became unruly with too much politics, and way too many women sharing two cabins and two bathrooms. The pull between the larks and the night owls was also stronger and at the point where the fuse blew (literally not figuratively) and the tourist park management could not work out where the fuse lived to fix it, my own fuse blew and I wondered what the hell I was doing there. You see, everyone else had gone to bed because there was no lights, it was dark and ‘there was nothing to do’ and left me to let the manager in and out until the fuse was finally fixed.
I’d never felt the generation gap so strongly before in the group, but it was distinct and made for a very long weekend.
This year, we’re back to a trio. Only two of the originals, but we are all closer in age and on the same page. Sleeping arrangements were worked out quickly and amicably – there was no fighting over the double bed or who had to sleep in the top bunk (No-one!) No fighting over the bathroom and none of us bought a hair drier.
So when Alex Smith from Moving Pictures posted that he would be playing with The Soul Shakers at The Rails on Friday evening, I was pretty sure that my entertainment suggestion would be met with enthusiasm and not derision, or flat out ‘we can’t do that’.
What a night!
Not only were we entertained by the smooth sounds of The Soul Shakers with Alex joining in on a couple of songs, we were mesmerised by the action on the dance floor. Note: all names and back stories concocted in the imaginations of three writers out on the town. There was Shazza, scary shimmy woman who hypnotised us with her pelvic thrusts – a shimmy that seemed to occur only at pelvis level. I tried to imitate but could not pull off her signature (and only) dance move. There was Lin, crazy Asian lady, with her supplies stored in her skin tight snake skin leggings. At one point, I thought she was going to strip, but she was only storing her lighter. There was Reggie – if you thought that Cliff Young could do the shuffle, you haven’t seen Reggie and his infamous shuffle dance – never did a foot actually lift from the dance floor. (That’s ‘Reggie’ in the photo above on the dance floor) We only stayed for two sets but that short experience of Byron nightlife made it worth it, even if we had risen at five that morning.
I also had a quick chat to Alex (so looking forward to the Moving Pictures gigs at Dee Why and Heathcote in 3 weeks time). So day 1 of the 2013 Byron experience was fabulous and I haven’t even mentioned our day at the festival.
Eating out in Byron Bay was always an issue when we had such a large group, and for some reason it was decreed that the entire group should always eat together – we couldn’t break into smaller groups and go our separate ways. So 1. We had to find a restaurant that had room for a large group and 2. We had to reach a unanimous decision. One year, we suggested Mexican but that was flatly turned down. So we’d usually end up one night at The Great Northern or Beach Hotel, one night at Earth and Sea Pizza and one night at The Curry House, which had a room upstairs we could squeeze into.
I looked up Mexican restaurants on Trip Advisor and discovered there was a new one called Miss Margarita but we couldn’t quite work out the address. Tonight we discovered that our usual haunt The Curry House had turned into a Mexican joint, Miss Margarita. When we first rolled up, it was packed out, so we thought we’d check out the other options, strolled around for an hour or so, then found ourselves back at Miss Margarita and the maitre d’ said he had a table for us. We ordered enchiladas, burritos and fajitas. Way too much food but very yummy. And we had rewritten our Indian banquet tradition. This was young person’s food. We will go back there again.
There was no way we could turn our back on our Sunday morning tradition – strolling around Byron Bay markets. And what a score – we all came away with goodies: I got a yellow coin scarf, 2 flower wreaths hairpieces, something for my RWA cocktail party costume and this Frida Kahlo bag.
Then we spent our final day at the writers festival. But more about the writers festival later.