Explore the 2024 Program

Sourdough, puzzles and a special rage

When I started as the Festival’s Artistic Director last September, I did so from Melbourne, where lockdown had become a way of life. Weeks, then months, of stay-at-home orders and supermarket shelves ravaged by panic buying, trying to plan when I could fly up and work in the office with all my Festival colleagues rather than try to catch the rhythm of a meeting via zoom. The story of 2020. So when we were able—against the odds—to deliver a full-blown live Festival at the end of April, it was hard not to feel a sense of hope and euphoria that perhaps the worst of it was behind us. Perhaps we were on top of things. Clearly pandemics don’t work that way.

Clearly we were as optimistic as we were lucky with timing. Our thoughts go out to all of you whose lives are constrained by uncertainty and waylaid by public health orders: job insecurity, loss of earnings, separation from loved ones, isolation, thwarted plans and pressured home situations; these are difficult and anxiety-inducing times.

Amongst the lessons I can impart to my Sydney friends and colleagues as they round the corner into week two of the lockdown, the number one bit of advice is this. Whatever you do don’t offer advice to other people. Honestly; it’s second only to the phrase “you’ve got this” for inspiring a very special rage. Find what works for you as best you can. Sourdough or sloth, puzzles or panic, Netflix or nothing at all. It’s a grind. Good luck.

But what we can offer, being a writers’ festival, is reading recommendations. Below you’ll find a few books we’ve been reading that we love. If your brain and your time permits, we’re firm believers in the power of a good book to distract and delight. It’s not an escape but it’s an excellent use of time.

And failing that, bung on one of our podcasts and listen to smart chat from writers you love. This whole community of talk, of books and ideas, is right here supporting one another and ready to help find meaningful and comforting ways to fill the hours and make the connections as we make our way through whatever recovering from global pandemic looks like.

Find what works for you as best you can. Sourdough or sloth, puzzles or panic, Netflix or nothing at all. It’s a grind. Good luck.
Michael Williams