Sydney Writers’ Festival 2023 looks to the future & tackles the hard questions

The Sydney Writers’ Festival is one of the top five literary festivals in the world. In its 26th year, the Festival aims to appeal to many different audiences, with topics ranging from AI and climate change to politics and food. We cannot escape the sense that our country, if not the world, is in a period of change, and the Festival line up reflects this.

Kathy Shand, Chair of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, comments, “We’re in the middle of a known past and an unknown future.” It has become the role of the storyteller to present us with alternate perspectives on this unknown time ahead.

The Festival’s theme this year – Stories for the Future – embodies this idea and encourages people to stand up and take agency over their lives.

With over 275 participants in this year’s festival we will see, for the first time since the pandemic, strong representation from international writers, including Geraldine Brooks AO (Horses), Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries), Andrey Kurkov (Diary of an Invasion) and George Monbiot (Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet), among others.

The Opening Night Address will see Bernardine Evaristo (Girl, Woman, Other), Benjamin Law (The Family Law) and Alexis Wright (Carpentaria and The Swan Book) deliver an address on how looking into our past can shape the future. This will be followed by a performance from poet Madison Godfrey (Dress Rehearsals).

Former prime minister Julia Gillard will take to the stage at Sydney’s Town Hall to discuss her new book, Not Now, Not Ever, celebrating 10 years since her influential misogyny speech in Parliament. Also at Sydney’s Town Hall, celebrated actor Sam Neill, in conversation with another celebrated actor Bryan Brown, will share stories from his memoir Did I Ever Tell You This?: A Memoir.

There will be many notable Australian authors making an appearance, including Tim Winton (Shallows, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and Breath), Richard Flanagan (The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Gould’s Book of Fish), Holly Ringland (The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart) and Pip Williams (One Italian Summer).

The All-Day YA is back on Saturday 27 May at Carriageworks with an exciting celebration of all things Young Adult fiction. The line up includes Lynette Noni, discussing fantasy with Amie Kaufman and Lili Wilkinson, Tegan Bennett Daylight will introduce her new novel and Tristan Bancks, Mette Jakobsen and Ellie Marney will unpack the thriller genre.

Don’t miss out on the Curiosity Lecture Series, which includes, Clementine Ford (Fight Like A Girl, Boys Will Be Boys and How We Love), Andrew Quilty (August in Kabul) and Stan Grant (Talking to My Country), among many, many others. Best of all, the Curiosity series is free!

Other highlights include:

  • Love Sermon – writer Clementine Ford and musician Libby O’Donovan take a look at love and all it’s many facets.
  • Harlem Shuffle – Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Colson Whitehead discusses his novel Harlem Shuffle and its forthcoming follow-up Crook Manifesto.
  • Real SelvesChloé Hayden, Sasha Kutabah Sarago, Grace Tame in conversation with Hannah Diviney discussing the unrealistic pressure put on young women and girls to conform.
  • SWF Great Debate: The Future is Still Worth Waiting For – featuring team captains Annabel Crabb and David Marr, along with teammates Tom Ballard, Jean Hinchliffe, Bo Seo and Amy Thunig, battle it out to see if we really can fix our mistakes or should we just enjoy life while we can.
  • Queerstories – five LGBTQIA+ writers share a part of themselves: the tale they want to tell but are never asked to. Hosted by Maeve Marsden, with Sophie Cunningham, Shane Jenek aka Courtney Act, Daniel Lavery, Joshua Whitehead, and Leanne Yong.
  • PODMANIA: Crime on the Record – featuring Patrick Abboud, Kate McClymont, Hedley Thomas and Ruby Jones. The panel of crime podcasters discuss the rise of the medium and how it is changing journalism.

The Sydney Writers’ Festival will run from 22 – 28 May 2023.

For the full Festival program and to purchase tickets head to the Sydney Writer’s Festival website.

Events will take place at various city, suburban and regional locations. Check the website for more details.