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Sydney Writers' Festival Has Announced Its Jam-Packed Doomsday-Inspired 2020 Program

More than 400 authors, including a Booker Prize winner and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, will descend on the city for 'Almost Midnight'.
By Samantha Teague
March 13, 2020
By Samantha Teague
March 13, 2020

UPDATE: MARCH 17, 2020 — Due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, Sydney Writers' Festival has cancelled its 2020 program. In a statement, organisers said the cancellation will have a "significant impact on the literary community" and is encouraging the pubic to support the authors who were scheduled to attend the festival and to visit local booksellers. Ticket holders will be contacted for reimbursement.


At the start of the Cold War in 1947, a group of scientists created the Doomsday Clock. An internationally recognised indicator of how close we are to a global catastrophe — caused by nuclear weapons, climate change or other disruptive technologies — it was initially set at 11.53pm. Fast forward to 2020, and we're a mere 100 seconds from midnight.

In light of this, Sydney Writers' Festival has announced its timely theme for 2020: Almost Midnight. More than 400 writers from across the globe are set to descend on the city from Monday, April 27–Sunday, May 3 to discuss Donald Trump, political movements, surveillance, bushfires, First Nations' connection to land and how we can reverse the clock's movement.

Heading the lineup is 2019 Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo and author of Girl, Women, Other. Evaristo's award-winning novel appeared on Concrete Playground's — and Barack Obama's — favourite books of 2019 list, alongside Salt by Bruce Pascoe, another author who'll be making an appearance at SWF. Pascoe, a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man, is known for his ground-breaking works exploring country, nature and identity.

Lisa Taddeo, author of the much-talked-about 2019 hit Three Women; acclaimed American novelist Siri Hustvedt; Uncanny Valley's Anna Wiener; writer of seminal 85 novel In the Cut, Susanna Moore; and Strange Hotel's Eimear McBride are five more international big-names flying into Sydney for the festival.

Bernardine Evaristo by Getty

Elsewhere on the program, Umbrella Movement founder and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Joshua Wong will appear via video link, and Nichole Perkins and Bim Adewunmi of Slate's hilarious Thirst Aid Kit will record an episode of the podcast live.

Lively panels discussing everything from Clive James to the Christchurch mosque shootings and why there may be method in Donald Trump's madness are also on the lineup, as is a large contingent of Australian authors. Christos Tsiolkas, Clare Bowditch, Shaun Micallef, Bob Brown, Paul Kelly, Archie Roach and Charlotte Wood are some of the 100-plus locals that'll be taking to the stage at Carriageworks, The Seymour Centre, Town Hall, City Recital Hall, Parramatta Riverside Theatre  and Chatswood Concourse Theatre.

While the writers prepare to discuss global catastrophes, the world is in the midst of one: the COVID-19 pandemic. Many events have already been cancelled, including SXSW, Coachella and Dark Mofo, but SWF has decided to cautiously proceed. In the case of any cancellations, however, it is promising a full refund.

Sydney Writers' Festival runs at various venues across the city from Monday, April 27–Sunday, May 3. Tickets go on sale at 9am on Friday, March 13 via

Top images: Prudence Upton

Published on March 13, 2020 by Samantha Teague


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