Michael Williams appointed Artistic Director of the 2021 Sydney Writers’ Festival

We are thrilled to announce that Michael Williams has been appointed Artistic Director of the 2021 Sydney Writers' Festival.

Michael Williams is a regular host of literary conversations and events. A writer, editor and broadcaster, he was a founding staff member of the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, and was its Director until earlier this year. Over the period of Michael’s Wheeler Centre leadership, the centre hosted more than 200 events a year and attracted a global audience through podcasts, broadcasts and digital media. Michael also hosted ABC RN’s Blueprint for Living and Talkfest and he remains a regular guest on ABC Radio and TV.

Sydney Writers’ Festival Chair Mark Scott says, “The wealth of literary programming that Michael brings to this role is unsurpassed, and in this difficult financial and curatorial time for arts organisations the Festival is heartened to have someone as impeccably qualified as Michael working on the 2021 program. His lengthy service at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre renders him one of the best-connected people in the Australian literary world.”

Michael will curate the 24th Sydney Writers' Festival program, scheduled for 26 April–2 May 2021, while an extensive global search for the ongoing position will take place in early 2021.

Sydney Writers’ Festival CEO, Chrissy Sharp, whom Michael previously worked alongside as co-founders of Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, says:

“Michael is well-known to Sydney Writers’ Festival audiences, and much admired by them for his frequent contributions as event moderator and for memorable interviews with Festival guests such as George Saunders, Max Porter, Paul Beatty, Roxane Gay and Helen Garner. In Melbourne he is much loved as a champion of Australian writing and publishing and for his engaging and inclusive programming at the Wheeler Centre. I’m really looking forward to seeing the curatorial direction he will bring to the 2021 Festival.” 

Excited by the task ahead, Michael says, “I've been a fan of Sydney Writers' Festival for many years – as a reader, as someone who worked in publishing, as a colleague at Melbourne's Wheeler Centre and as an interviewer and participant on their stages – and there is nothing like it. There's a reason it's one of the world's best writers' festivals, beloved by audiences and authors alike. At any time I'd be thrilled by the prospect of getting to work with this astonishing team. Right now, amidst the instability and hardship, Sydney Writers' Festival has an opportunity to reimagine how we think about what a writers' festival is and does; who it's for and why it matters. As the relationship between the local and the global changes in seismic ways, the ways we share stories and build communities around conversation is powerful and vital. I can't think of anywhere better to explore that than the Sydney Writers' Festival.”

We have no doubt that with Michael’s creative insight, and under his thoughtful and robust direction, the 2021 Festival will be an inspiring and stimulating celebration of literature and ideas – one that we look forward to experiencing with you next April.   

Michael will take the reins from our current Artistic Director Michaela McGuire in September.

Download the press release here

Listen to a selection of Michael Williams' Sydney Writers' Festival interviews below.