Festival Guide: Free Events

Each year, some of our most informative, engaging and entertaining events won't even cost you a dime! Come and see our popular Coffee and Papers with journalists from The Sydney Morning Herald alongside international guests, listen in on the Curiosity Lecture Series, bring the family with you to our fun-filled Family Day, pick events from four days of free programming in The Studio and come and narrate at the Audible Studio pop-up sound booth.

9am: Coffee and Papers with SMH

Join us on Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning of the Festival with a freshly-brewed coffee in hand and start your day with edifying, intellectual conversation. This year, Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández, William Davies (author of Nervous States), and Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer will join a panel of Sydney Morning Herald editors and journalists to discuss daily headlines and what stories we need to be following. Coffee and Papers with SMH takes place at 9am at the Curiosity Stage, Carriageworks.

10am–5pm: The Curiosity Lecture Series

Held at the Curiosity Stage, a diverse range of topics will be explored during lectures by Festival guests, including free speech as an industrial issue, maggots and flies as nature's greatest marvel, the value of the commonplace in creativity, octopi and our place in the world. The full program can be found here.

10am–4pm: The Big Backyard

Running from 10am to 4pm on Sunday 5 May, The Big Backyard features fun and creative events suitable for the whole family. There's plenty to see, and a line-up of your favourite children's book authors will narrate their stories at the Storytime Clubhouse, and five of Australia's best illustrators will take turns creating at The Illustration Space. Other highlights include the return of the travelling library Russ the Story Bus, and a giant colouring-in wall, alongside the opportunity to make many souvenirs to take home such as badges, and a beautiful kaleidoscope collage.

11am–4pm: Audible Studio Sound Booth

If you think you could be the next big thing in audiobook narration, get behind the mic and give your vocal cords a thorough warm up at this limited time pop-up. Audible.com.au, the Australian division of the world’s leading provider and producer of spoken word entertainment, is listening out for superstar voices and invests in local talent. Come and give it your best go between 3–5 May from 11am–4pm, and receive a free electronic copy of your audiobook performance to share with family and friends. 

Other Free Highlights

Meet the SMH Best Young Australian Novelists

Each year the Sydney Morning Herald names Australia's best young writers, so come hear passages from Australia's rising young fiction writers with Jason Steger who hosts the 23rd year of the awards. 

Sweatshop Women

Celebrate our diversity and in a panel launched by the Western Sydney Literacy Movement. Sweatshop Women introduces the first-ever collection of short stories, essays, and poems by Western Sydney’s women of colour. Hear speeches and performance readings from this talented line-up. Full line-up can be found here.

Niviaq Korneliussen: Crimson

Hailing from South Greenland, Niviaq Korneliussen became an unlikely international literary star with her debut novel, Crimson. Join Nadia Bailey in hosting Niviaq as she discusses her novel and the tales it tells of four queer characters confronting their identities in Greenland's remote capital, Nuuk.

Bryan Washington: Lot 

Lot by Bryan Washington has been described as “the confession of a neighbourhood, channelled through a literary prodigy” by Loving Day author Mat Johnson. Labeled as one of 2019's most exciting debuts, Bryan Washington is hosted by Peter Polites as he discusses his viscerally drawn collection of short stories, set in Houston.