Sydney Writers’ Festival is one of the world’s leading and most beloved literary institutions. It is a place for readers, writers and thinkers to share ideas, tell stories and celebrate literature.
Since our first Festival in 1997, we have brought thousands of diverse writers and thinkers from Australia and around the globe together in Sydney. In the company of the world’s best novelists, poets, journalists, public intellectuals, economists, politicians, podcasters and scientists, we’ve discussed some of the most pressing issues of our times. We’ve celebrated prize-winning authors, long-awaited novels from writers at the height of their careers, and have introduced debut authors to eager and enthusiastic new audiences.
Readers and writers have exchanged thoughts and opinions, perspectives and philosophies, creating a powerful community based on radical dialogue and respectful debate. The drumbeat of questioning that thrums underneath the Festival is powerful and enlivens Australia’s democratic tradition.
Each year, more than 400 writers take part in over 300 conversations, debates, performances and panel discussions to audiences of more than 80,000. One-third of our events are free, and our Live & Local streaming program brings our Festival to life in regional libraries and community centres right across the country.
We are proud to create a Festival that through careful curation acts as a barometer of the world around us, and offers an invitation to hear new ideas, stories and voices.
Our programming speaks – urgently and clearly – to the world as it is today and showcases contemporary and diverse writers including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices, this land’s first storytellers.
Through the power of imagination and magic of storytelling, our Family, Young Adult and Education programs help kids and teenagers better understand the world they live in. Our philanthropic Children’s Festival of Moving Stories reaches around 8,000 primary school children each year to foster a deeper engagement with books and reading.
The Festival plays a vital role in Australia’s literary landscape. It provides a highly visible platform for the work of local authors, encourages broad public engagement in books, and increases audiences for both Australian and international literature.
Our current Artistic Director is Michael Williams, who was appointed in September 2020.
The 2020 Sydney Writers’ Festival was cancelled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Over the coming months, many of the writers on the program will contribute their stories, perspectives and ideas on our podcast channel.
The next Sydney Writers’ Festival will be held 26 April–2 May 2021. The program will be announced in March 2021.
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Previous Festival guests
Previous international guests include Jennifer Egan, Fatima Bhutto, Andrew Sean Greer, Masha Gessen, Max Porter, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Eileen Myles, George Saunders, Susan Faludi, Alexander Chee, Paul Beatty, Rachel Kushner, Colson Whitehead, Anne Enright, Armando Iannucci, Roxane Gay, Min Jin Lee, Ian Rankin, Gloria Steinem, Julian Barnes, Simon Schama, Atul Gawande, Jonathan Franzen, Alan Cumming, Vince Gilligan, Alice Walker, Paul Muldoon, William Boyd, Ece Temelkuran, Susan Orlean, Meg Wolitzer, Antony Beevor, Eleanor Catton, A.M. Homes, Roddy Doyle, Claire Messud, James Wood, Jeanette Winterson, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Friedman, Yanis Varoufakis and many more.
Previous Australian guests include Hannah Kent, Liane Moriarty, John Safran, Richard Flanagan, Helen Garner, Anna Funder, Robert Dessaix, Kate Grenville, Alexis Wright, Tom Keneally, Kate McClymont, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Omar Musa and Ceridwen Dovey.
Previous Artistic Directors
Michaela McGuire: 2017–2020
Jemma Birrell: 2013–2016
Chip Rolley: 2010–2012
Wendy Were: 2007–2009
Caro Llewellyn: 2003–2006
Meredith Curnow: 1999–2002
John Nieuwenhuizen: 1998