In an evening of story and song, a constellation of stellar guests respond to the 2020 Sydney Writers’ Festival theme, Almost Midnight. They share what keeps them burning the midnight oil, consider how we can turn back the clock against quickening crises, and celebrate the inspiring thinkers of today who are writing and fighting like they have no time to lose. Featuring singer-songwriter and First Nations activist Archie Roach, actor Yael Stone, barrister Julian Burnside QC, award-winning Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch (The Yield), and Sharks in the Time of Saviours author Kawai Strong Washburn. Hosted by Patrick Abboud.

Supported by the University of Sydney.

Archie Roach (Australian)

Archie Roach

Archie Roach's memoir is one of the most powerful and highly anticipated Australian stories ever told. Not many have lived as many lives as Archie – from stolen child, teenage alcoholic, seeker, lover, father, musical and lyrical genius, to social advocate and First Nations leader – but it took almost a lifetime to find who he really was. Tell Me Why is a compelling account of resilience and the strength of spirit to overcome trauma whilst searching for a sense of belonging – and a great love story. In this intimate, moving and often confronting journey, Archie's story is an extraordinary odyssey through love and heartbreak, family and community, survival and renewal – and testament to the healing power of music. It is also about his struggle to find the will to keep living following a debilitating stroke, lung cancer and the sudden death of his life partner of 38 years, Ruby Hunter – a highly acclaimed singer-songwriter in her own right. Archie voices the joy, pain and hope he found on his path through song to become the legendary singer-songwriter and storyteller that he is today – beloved and respected by fans worldwide. Archie will retire from touring in 2020 after 30 years of performing.

Yael Stone (Australian)

Yael Stone

Yael Stone is best known for playing Lorna Morello for seven seasons on Orange Is the New Black. She has spent a good deal of her life working in theatre, film and TV in Australia and the US. She recently announced that she would be abandoning her US Green Card and returning home to Australia as a symbol of her commitment to reducing CO2 emissions. During her time in the USA, Yael worked in New York City with Liberation Prison Yoga teaching meditation and yoga to women on Rikers Island and served as a Board member. She was also a member of the Resistance Revival Chorus, an arts protest group led by Women's March organisers. Yael has written for Guardian Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, Elle and Junkee, and has previously appeared at Sydney Writers' Festival as part of a People of Letters event.

Julian Burnside (Australian)

Julian Burnside

Julian Burnside QC is a Melbourne barrister specialising in commercial litigation. He is a former president of Liberty Victoria, and has acted pro bono in many human rights cases, in particular concerning the treatment of refugees. He is the author of Watching Out: Reflections on Justice and Injustice, Wordwatching, Watching Brief, and Matilda and the Dragon. He compiled a book of letters written by asylum seekers held in Australia’s detention camps, published as From Nothing to Zero. In 2004, he was elected as a Living National Treasure, and in 2009 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. In 2014, he was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize.

Kawai Strong Washburn (International)

Kawai Strong Washburn

Kawai Strong Washburn was born and raised on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. His work has appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, McSweeney's and Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, among others. He was a 2015 Tin House Summer Scholar and 2015–2016 Bread Loaf work-study scholar. He has lived and worked in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Palestine, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Namibia. Today, he lives with his wife and daughters in Minneapolis. Sharks in the Time of Saviours is his first novel.

Tara June Winch (Australian)

Tara June Winch

Tara June Winch is an Wiradjuri writer, born in Australia and based in France. She is the author of the story collection After the Carnage and the novels Swallow the Air, and most recently, The Yield. She was the literature recipient of the international Rolex Mentor and Protégé initiative, which saw her mentored by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka.

Patrick Abboud (Australian)

Patrick Abboud

Patrick Abboud is a Walkley nominated and multi-award-winning journalist, TV presenter and documentary maker. He’s currently an investigative reporter for The Project on Network Ten, and directs interactive documentary projects in collaboration with SBS Digital Labs and Google Creative Labs. Pat is the recipient of the 2020 Jesse Cox Fellowship and is working on a multi-platform true crime series for release in 2021. Pat founded SBS TV’s The Feed. His innovative long-form storytelling has been described as "must watch TV" (Guardian Australia) and as "documentaries every Australian needs to see" (news.com.au). Pat has also co-hosted and directed content for the SBS Mardi Gras television broadcast. His pop culture interview series #PatChat has clocked up more than 30 million views across social media. Cosmopolitan named Pat one of the 50 most influential LGBTQI+ voices in 2017.