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 three 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 – Operations Manager

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. 

Mel Colvin – Live & Local Project Coordinator

Mel has a career spanning the arts and events sector with over 30 years’ experience working in a diverse range of roles and on a wide spectrum of projects. She has worked as a producer, administrator, event director, project manager, production and stage manager; on dance, theatre, opera, film, major public events and festivals. Mel is excited to be working with our Regional and National colleagues to bring the Festival to a wider audience through the Live & Local project.

Richard Cox – Ticketing Coordinator

Richard first jumped on board the Sydney Writers’ Festival team as Ticketing Coordinator in 2011. Outside of the Festival, Richard regularly works in various roles for many of Sydney’s arts organisations, including Sydney Festival, Sydney Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare and Underbelly Arts Festival. He also co-runs the string musician agency Stringspace. Richard is an active Sydney-based actor, collaborator, voice-over artist and (very, very occasionally) writer, who enjoys the performing arts, literature, wine, cheese, the dichotomous sense of isolation and togetherness one gets from spending time alone amongst nature, and fat piles of chocolate.

Luke de Zilva – Digital Marketing Manager

Luke joins Sydney Writers' Festival again in 2016 after spending six months at Sydney Festival working across all things digital. Including Sydney Writers’ Festival 2015, this will be Luke’s third festival in twelve months! Previously, Luke managed the social media, video, and live streaming efforts at Sydney Opera House.  There, Luke worked closely with all areas of the House and worked across major events and festivals including Vivid LIVE, Festival Of Dangerous Ideas and All About Women.  Prior to this, Luke managed the online communities and digital content efforts for various visual artists and record labels.  Luke's greatest interests in the field are visual aesthetic, exploring new media, and sharing and creating interesting and memorable content. Luke completed a Bachelor of Arts Media & Communications/English Literature double-major at UNSW.  His favourite writers are Eugene O'Neill and Vladimir Nabakov.

Hannah Dickson – Partnerships Manager

Hannah Dickson moved to Sydney to join the Festival team in 2015 from a career in museums and galleries in the UK. Committed to developing successful charitable and corporate partnerships across the arts, Hannah spent close to four years fundraising for programs at Tate Modern and Tate Britain and came to Sydney Writers' Festival from a Development Manager position at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. 

Tessa Feggans – Programming & Admin Assistant

Tessa joined the Sydney Writers’ Festival team in January 2016. She has a BA Honours in Communication (Writing and Cultural Studies) from UTS, and wrote her experimental thesis about Alzheimer’s disease. Tessa has interned for both the marketing and editorial departments at Allen & Unwin, and can no longer fit all the books she owns on her bookshelves.

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 – Head of Marketing & Digital

In 2014, Rani Haywood returned to her hometown of Sydney from New York, where she was the Senior Marketing Manager at the city's leading not-for-profit theatre company, Roundabout Theatre Company. In 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 Coordinator

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 as Marketing Coordinator 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. Aimee is a life-long bookworm and feels very at home working in an office full of lovers of literature.

Andy Lysle – Head of Festival Production

Andy Lysle has worked with Sydney Writers’ Festival since 2011 starting as a technician and moving into the Production role. As a freelancer Andy works regularly for many different arts organisations and festivals including Sydney Festival, Underbelly Arts, Bangarra Dance Theatre, The Sydney Fringe and many more. He also runs an event production company providing equipment for emerging theatre groups, venues and events such as Brand X , 107 Projects, The Red Rattler Theatre, Regrowth, Skyvillage among others.  Sydney Writers’s Festival is one of the highlight events of the year for Andy.  It is an opportunity to grow and learn a lot, not just from the program but also from the unique challenges that the heritage Piers in Walsh Bay provide.

Walter Mansfield – Ticketing Coordinator

Walter joined Sydney Writers’ Festival in February 2016. He has over 8 years experience in ticketing in the arts sector. Walter previously held the role of Ticketing Specialist at the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Theatre Company. He is passionate about the arts community and is an avid reader. 

Katie Mayor – Associate Publicist

Katie joined Sydney Writers’ Festival in early 2016. She has a background as a book publicist, having worked at Random House and Murdoch Books. Katie was the Media and PR Advisor at the University of Sydney, where she managed their sponsorships of Sydney Writers’ Festival and Sydney Film Festival and helped bring the event series Raising the Bar to Sydney. Katie now runs her own media agency Wild Spin Media and hosts a weekly travel show on Bondi Beach Radio.

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. She 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.

Jeanmarie Morosin – Head of Children's Programs

Jeanmarie is passionate about books for children and young adults. She's worked in children’s publishing for over twelve years, both in Australia and overseas, most recently as publisher of children’s books at Random House Australia, where she acquired picture books and non-fiction titles. Before joining Random House she was Executive Editor at Penguin Books for Children and Young Adults.  Jeanmarie has also worked at ABC Books for Children and Allen & Unwin in Australia.  In 2008 Jeanmarie moved to New York, where she worked at the PEN World Voices Festival and Harper Collins Children’s Books.   Jeanmarie programmed the Family Day events at the Big Top for Little People in SWF 2014 and commenced her current role in mid-July.

Liam Nesbitt – Ground Transport Coordinator

Liam Nesbitt returns to SWF in 2016 to head the Festival Ground Transport. In addition to being our Ground Transport Coordinator since 2008, Liam freelances in Event, Production and Site Management, specialising in  outdoor events and festivals such as Splendour in The Grass, Falls Festival, Secret Garden and Boogie. He also produces A Mic in Hand, one of Sydney’s oldest independent stand-up comedy rooms.

Benython Oldfield – Publicity Manager

Benython Oldfield joined Sydney Writers’ Festival in 2013. Outside Festival months he runs the literary and publicity agency, Zeitgeist Media Group, which has offices in Sydney and Brussels. Benython has worked in media and publishing for nearly 20 years and is on the Board of the NSW Writers’ Centre.

Tamara Press – Head of Development

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.

Kate Steinweg – Program Manager

Kate joined the Sydney Writers’ Festival in September 2014 after three years working in book publishing at HarperCollins Australia. In 2013 she launched HarperCollins’ first online manuscript submissions portal and was the project manager for the company's new digital imprint.  At university Kate wisely abandoned a law degree to pursue Honours in English literature. She worked in magazine and website publishing before going on to complete her Masters at the University of Oxford in 2011. Kate is an avid reader and book reviewer. You can find her on twitter @kate_is_reading.

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.

Media Inquiries

For all media inquiries please contact the SWF office.

Phone 02 9252 7729
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