Book-lovers across the city wailed with despair when broken-hearted artistic director Michaela McGuire made the pained announcement that the Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF) would not proceed in this craziest of years.
We should have been in the midst of the festival now. While the Great Indoors has allowed for more evenings devoted to reading, the loss of community championed by SWF, connecting audiences to authors in person, is keenly felt.
But there is some good news, finally. While there won’t be a physical festival this year, SWF has harnessed funds made available by The Copyright Agency to launch an exciting podcast series. It will revive many of the cancelled events digitally, providing a much-needed payday for our amazing authors.
“In the weeks since we had to cancel the 2020 festival, we’ve been working hard to ensure that this year’s program has a new story,” McGuire says. “The Copyright Agency funding has extended a lifeline that allows us to celebrate and promote Australian writers’ incredible work, encourage sales of their books and connect them with the festival’s audiences.”
Indulging our wild bingeing habits, the festival will drop six spectacular offerings today, then drip-feed roughly two a week through to the end of the year.
Divine Top End Wedding and The Sapphires star Miranda Tapsell chats with ABC Radio National presenter Daniel Browning about her brand-new memoir, Top End Girl. In particular, she talks about her personal ambition to correct the shortage of Indigenous voices represented on Australian screens.
Gomeroi poet, essayist and legal scholar Alison Whittaker’s Blakwork was shortlisted for the 2019 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, and she recently released Fire Front, an anthology of First Nations poetry. She’ll tackle this year’s SWF theme ‘Almost Midnight’, considering how we cling to hope when it feels a lot like the doomsday clock is ticking.
Jess Hill’s gripping exposé of Australia’s domestic abuse crisis and the criminal justice system that shelters perpetrators, See What You Made Me Do, won the 2020 Stella Prize. No less than Helen Garner praised it as a “shattering book, clear-headed and meticulous, driving always at the truth”. Hill will discuss this difficult but important topic in conversation with journalist Georgie Dent.
Guest curator Rebecca Giggs discusses her new non-fiction gem Fathoms: The world in the whale, revealing the secret lives of the world’s largest mammals. The idea for the book was sparked when Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beach. It explores the bigger picture of what we’re doing to our planet. She’ll dive in with Angus Dalton, co-founder of climate change and urban ecology magazine Sweaty City.
Double your ‘no money required’ with a team-up between Ann Patchett (The Dutch House) and Kevin Wilson (Nothing to See Here) who’ll get close and personal, discussing their decades-long friendship, admiration for each other’s work and their hopes for the future.
And the team at Western Sydney Literacy Movement Sweatshop present some of the leading lights from their second collection of short stories, essays and poems produced entirely by women of colour. A cracker of a line-up, it features Winnie Dunn, Sydnye Allen, Maryam Azam, Janette Chen, Phoebe Grainer and Sara Saleh.
All six podcasts are available free on the Sydney Writers’ Festival website, as well as all major podcast platforms. McGuire encourages you to grab copies of the books from festival bookseller Gleebooks, and you can donate to support SWF in this trying time here.
Inspired by the resurrection of SWF? Read all about this glorious city in these novels hand-picked by our favourite booksellers.
This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.