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Media release — 18 August 2021

Melbourne Writers Festival cancels live events and brings forward MWF Digital

Melbourne Writers Festival has announced the cancellation of live events following the extension of Melbourne’s lockdown until 11.59pm on 2 September.

MWF Artistic Director Michaela McGuire said it was no longer possible to proceed with the in-person events that were scheduled to unfurl across the city from 3–12 September, however, the MWF Digital program will be brought forward to give everyone access to online events from home.

‘We want to thank the hundreds of writers who were scheduled to be part of this year’s Festival for joining us on this bold and optimistic venture. We’re devastated that we are unable to showcase the staggering talent of so many authors, who have already published books into the most unenviable of circumstances, in the way that we’d planned,’ McGuire said.

‘We’re extremely grateful for the support of our audiences, and look forward to sharing 10 extraordinary conversations from MWF Digital with readers and writers all around the world.’

MWF Digital is streaming online for an extended period from 3–15 September. Events are available individually on a Pay What You Can model, or festival supporters can go all in and purchase a Digital Pass.

MWF will bring audiences a lovingly curated selection of the world’s essential literary voices, from Pulitzer Prize winners to exhilarating debut authors, to the most talked-about novelists of the year. These events feature luminaries Rachel Cusk, Jhumpa Lahiri, Emma Dabiri, Rumaan Alam, Akala, Natasha Brown, Brandon Taylor, AC Grayling, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Sigrid Nunez in conversation with some of Australia’s most beloved interviewers and broadcasters.

We are also proud to present a specially commissioned short documentary series mapping the creative lives of three local authors: Tony Birch, Sophie Cunningham and Jennifer Down. Directed by acclaimed artist Will Huxley, Writers on Film features self-narrated tours of the neighbourhoods and personally significant sites that inform their award-winning works, from the Abbotsford Convent to various spots along the Birrarung, all contained within one rich, creative area in the heart of our UNESCO City of Literature. Writers on Film will premiere online on 3 September.

McGuire said the MWF team was exploring ways to bring elements of the wider program to audiences in the months ahead, with online conversations, podcasts and live options all under consideration.

‘We’ve had a great audience response to a program built around the theme Tell Me How It Ends. It spoke to so many of us and we’ll be looking at how we can share the conversations and stories of this year’s program in new ways.’

CEO Rebecca MacFarling said it was a challenging time for authors and festivalgoers. All tickets to in-person events will automatically be refunded in full, and anyone who wants to make a tax deductible donation to support the festival can do so here.

MWF Chair Astrid Edwards said, ‘This year the MWF team put together an extraordinary program which speaks to the questions of our time. While the pandemic has forced our hand in terms of live events, our digital offering remains and it is compelling. Our thoughts are with all writers and creators at this time, especially as they continue to feel the loss of live events at the same time as economic support for the Arts is so constrained.’

The winner of The Age Book of the Year award, which was to be presented as part of MWF’s Opening Night for the first time since 2012, will be announced online on 3 September. Further details will be made available via theage.com.au and mwf.com.au

Download the media release


For all media enquiries, please contact Michelle Edmunds at CPR Communications & Public Relations on +61 (0)413 120 342 or email m.edmunds@cprcomm.com.au