Staff
Jemma Birrell – Artistic Director

After working in Australian publishing, Jemma Birrell moved to Paris to join Shakespeare and Company, one of the world's most famous bookshops. As the store's first Events Director, she developed a world-renowned literary program, presenting leading authors, thinkers and musicians. She was also Co-Director of three editions of FestivalandCo, Shakespeare and Company’s biennial literary festival, set in a park across from Notre Dame.

Jemma began as Artistic Director of Sydney Writers’ Festival at the end of 2012. She has directed four Festivals so far, focusing on writing across forms, from books, to music, film and television. She has curated innovative new event streams such as the Curiosity Lecture Series, Writers on Writers and the Late Night Salon. The last two editions of the Festival have had the highest ever attendances, book sales and ticket sales. In 2015, sessions were also live streamed to regional areas for the first time, expanding the creative reach of the Festival further than ever before.

Under Jemma’s artistic direction, the Festival has welcomed illustrious international authors including Karl Ove Knausgård, Neil Gaiman, Irvine Welsh, Alice Walker, Ben Okri, Vince Gilligan, Sheila Heti, Michael Sandel and Helen Macdonald. The program has also showcased world class Australian authors Richard Flanagan, Thomas Keneally, Kate Grenville, Alexis Wright, David Malouf and Helen Garner. Jemma’s passion for introducing new talent to Australian audiences has brought attention to many new writers including Ceridwen Dovey and Fiona McFarlane, and international performance poet and novelist Kate Tempest. The Festival has also grown its program of events throughout the year and now has an annual children’s festival. 


 
Jo Dyer – Executive Director

Jo joined the Festival in February 2015.  Prior to that, Jo held significant roles in the Australian arts industry, including General Manager of Bangarra Dance Theatre and Executive Producer of Sydney Theatre Company.  During her time at STC, Jo oversaw the largest theatre programme in the country, curating for multiple venues and diverse audiences, and touring the company’s works around Australia and across Europe and the US.

As a film producer, Jo’s debut film, Lucky Miles (2007) was nominated for Best Film at Australia’s AFI and IF Awards, and won awards around the world.  Jo subsequently produced The Boy Castaways (2013) for the ABC and Adelaide Film Festival, and contributed a chapter to the acclaimed feature anthology Tim Winton’s The Turning (2013).  Her next film, Girl Asleep, will premiere in late 2015.

As an independent producer, Jo has produced work for a diverse range of presenters through her company, Soft Tread Enterprises.  After a sell-out premiere season at the 2014 Sydney Festival, her acclaimed magic show, Band of Magicians, continues to tour nationally and internationally.

Jo is the Chair of Force Majeure, one of Australia’s most celebrated dance theatre companies, and sits on the Board of the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre. 


 
Liz Astey – Head of Operations & Production

Liz joined the Festival in August 2015, following a career as a Production and Operations Manager at some of Australia's largest events and festivals. Focusing mainly on large-scale outdoor events, Liz has been involved in Sydney New Year's Eve with both the City of Sydney and Royal Botanic Gardens, as well as taking on roles at Belvoir, Performing Lines, Sydney Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Darwin Festival, and Art Month Sydney. 

Liz joins the Writers' Festival as Operations Manager after five years working on the ground at the event. 


 
Stephen Attfield – Acting Head of Development
Stephen joined the SWF team in August 2016. He is a senior arts professional with over 10 years experience writing strategy and delivering profitable relationships between business and the arts, and building successful membership and patrons programs. Stephen is passionate about the arts and has worked with some of its major names – Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Carriageworks and Sydney Symphony Orchestra. 

 
Travis Green – Ticketing & CRM Manager

Travis joined Sydney Writers’ Festival in February 2016. He has over 8 years experience in Arts Management, focusing on the customer experience and developing patron retention in the arts sector.

Travis previously held the role of Education Systems and Client Services Manager at the Sydney Theatre Company, Customer Relations Manager at the Bell Shakespeare Company, Season Tickets Manager at the Sydney Theatre Company, and Customer Services Manager at the Griffin Theatre Company. He has a passion for the performing arts and literature, and its engagement in the wider community.


 
Rani Haywood – Director, Special Projects

Prior to joining Sydney Writers' Festival Rani Haywood was Senior Marketing Manager at New York City's leading not-for-profit theatre company, Roundabout Theatre Company. In her home town of Sydney, Rani has led marketing and communications teams at the Australia Council for the Arts, Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Sydney Writers' Festival is Rani's third festival gig, having previously worked at Sydney Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Both in Australia and the United States, Rani has worked as a marketing consultant on a diverse range of arts and cultural projects, presented regularly at industry events, and been engaged as a lecturer on arts marketing and management at leading educational institutions. She was recently appointed to the board of Brand X, and previously served as a director on the board of de Quincey co.


 
Aimee Huxley – Marketing Manager

Aimee returned to Sydney Writers’ Festival in January 2016, having previously worked with us in 2014. Prior to re-joining the SWF team, she had worked in arts marketing for the last six years, most recently at Sydney Theatre Company.

Aimee’s other roles include Publications Editor at Perth International Arts Festival and Sydney Festival. Aimee has a background in publishing, having worked as an editor for education publishing companies in Melbourne. Aimee studied literature at Curtin University in Western Australia, and writing and editing at the University of Melbourne.


 
Misty McPhail – Volunteer Coordinator

Misty is excited to be leading our amazing team of volunteers once again in 2016. Her first introduction to SWF was in 2012 as a volunteer, then in 2013 she joined the program editing team and took on the FOH Manager and Artist Liaison role at SWF city events. In 2014 and 2015, Misty returned as SWF Volunteer Coordinator and expanded the SWF internship program for university students.

Misty recently graduated from WSU with her BA (Honours), receiving the university medal, and in 2015 began PhD research into digital festival formats. In the SWF off-season, Misty works for TVS (Television Sydney) and is a co-producer of the Made in the West Film Festival. She has worked for Fox Studios, StillSearchin Production films, and continues to edit in her spare time.


 
Tamara Press – Head of Development (Maternity Leave)

Tamara joined the Festival team in late 2013 after four years in London where she headed the corporate development team at the Barbican Centre. With over 10 year's experience in marketing, activation and fundraising, Tamara is passionate about developing successful partnerships between business and the Arts. As well as working with arts companies, including Sydney Festival, Tamara has worked for two international Sport and Entertainment agencies as Senior Account Director looking after a range of blue chip clients across a portfolio of sponsorships.


 
Clare Sawyer – Head of Children's & YA Programs

Clare Sawyer is a producer and programmer, specialising in Children's and YA programming. For the 2016 Sydney Film Festival she curated the expanded Family Program. She has also programmed for Flickerfest and Cockatoo Island Film Festivals and worked with the Youth Jury (Generation) at Berlin Film Festival. Clare was previously the Screen Development and Education manager of Cockatoo Island and Dungog film festivals.

For four years Clare was the Producer and General Manager of the IF Awards, which screened on SBS TV and Showtime. Prior to that she managed two key independent film festivals, Flickerfest and Mardi Gras Film Festival. Clare has also worked in production roles on a number of features, shorts, music videos and animations and produced five films.


 
Natasha Younger – Finance & Administration Manager

Natasha joined the Sydney Writers' Festival team in 2013. Prior to moving to Sydney, Natasha worked for seven years as the Event and Program Manager for the Mind Body Spirit Festival in London. With over ten years experience in systems, events and teams: her love of learning new things, music and the arts have influenced her career from the onset. Working with Sydney Writers’ Festival combines her love of new ideas, and events that inspire and educate, together with the alphabet, systems and the world of literature.


 
Tamara (Tam) Zimet – Program Coordinator

Tam joined Sydney Writers’ Festival in August 2016 after working as the Media Liaison at Screen Australia. At Screen Australia, Tam was the main point of contact for media and was part of a team that delivered the agency’s biggest ever funding project, Gender Matters, which aims to address the gender disparity in the screen sector.

Before moving to Sydney, Tam was the Publicist at the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne for more than four years and was also on the Junior Advisory Board for the Melbourne Festival. She has a BA in Communications (Professional Communications) from RMIT and a Diploma of Youth Work. Tam has worked as a consultant and volunteer in various capacities for organisations including the Girls on Film Festival (GOFF), SlutWalk and The Reach Foundation.


 
Media Inquiries

For all media inquiries please contact the SWF office.

Phone 02 9252 7729
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