Sydney Writers’ Festival

Things to do
People shopping at Sydney Writers' Festival 2018 Carriageworks
Photograph: Prudence Upton

Time Out says

The Sydney Writers’ Festival is back in 2021 with a bold, new lineup of authors, speakers and thinkers

Each year, Sydney's inner-city streets fill to the brim with a crowd of writers, journalists, public intellectuals and audiences gathering for its long-standing celebration of literature, reading and ideas: the Sydney Writers' Festival.

In a piquant turn of events, the festival's 2020 iteration –  themed around world catastrophe as foretold by the 'Doomsday Clock' – was called off when the government mandated a nationwide shutdown in its fourth hour of selling tickets. In 2021, the festival's theme has been reimagined to celebrate closeness, connection and accessibility. Within Reach is all about celebrating homegrown talent – but all rules are made to be bent, especially if it means audiences can be in the same room as (the digital apparitions of) Kazuo Ishiguro and Judy Blume. 

This year, artistic director Michaela McGuire has handed the reins of the festival over to Michael Williams, veteran arts administer. He's putting on a showing of 400 international and homegrown writers to the main SWF hub of Carriageworks, as well as many other venues across Sydney like Riverside Theatres in Parrmatta and the CBD's City Recital Hall. 

The opening night address will see three First Nations women writers take the stage: Miles Franklin award-winners Melissa Lucaskehno and Tara June Winch and debut poet Evelyn Araluen. The all-star Within Reach gala will feature writers like Tony Birch (The White Girl), Richard Flanagan (The Living Sea of Waking Dreams), Adam Goodes (Kicking Goals),and Sisonke Msimang (Always Another Country) appearing at City Recital Hall to talk about distance and intimacy, while the SWF: Great Debate ponders the ineffable question: 'How good is Australia?' We'll see Benjamin Law, Don Watson and Elaine Crombie in the affirmative and Nakkiah Lui, David Marr and Annabel Crabb in the negative. We're expecting a tight race. 

As well as the aforementioned Ishiguro and Blume, the festival will see some familiar faces appear via videolink: among them are Rachel Cusk, author the stunning Outline trilogy, and now, Second Place; Isabel Wilkerson whose book Caste: The Lies That Divide Us has created ripples; and activist and author of No Friend But the MountainsBehrooz Boochani. Expect earnest, forward-thinking discussions which go to the heart of what it means to have hope in our world.

Unexpected pairings are also the order of the day: the nation's health touchstone Norman Swan will be joined by son and recent internet phenomenon Jonathan Swan (thanks to that Trump interview) while senator Mehreen Faruqi will too be joined by her son, commentator and journalist Osman Faruqi. Plus, Sweatshop Writers' Collective will launch its fresh, new anthology, Racism, packed full of emerging and established voices. 

Of course, Australia's literary scene is bursting with fresh talent from all angles – there are too many to name, but the best part of the festival is stumbling onto dynamic ideas from emerging voices. A panel showcasing new voices on food highlights perspectives from Lee Tran Lam, Tyree Barnette, Lina Jebeile, and Arabella Douglas and takes place at Casula Powerhouse – one of the many venues outside of Carriageworks that will also host events as part of the festival. Others include the Seymour Centre, Town Hall, City Recital Hall, Parramatta Riverside Theatre and the Chatswood Concourse, as well as libraries and community halls across the Sydney region. 

And what about the kids? SWF always puts on a good show for the whole family, and this year, Kirli Saunders and Dub Leffler, creators of verse novel Bindi, will teach children how to care for Country, while Carriageworks will host 'All-Day YA' for the first time: Gary Lonesborough (The Boy from the Mish) and Garth Nix are highlights. 

Ticket prices vary but many events are absolutely free - though bookings are essential for all events. Check out the whole program here from April 26 to May 2. 


Event website:
Event phone: 02 9250 1988
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