British Council Australia is delighted to be supporting British writers as part of the 2024 Sydney Writers Festival.

Every May, the Sydney Writers Festival gathers talented storytellers across all forms for a stimulating, engaging, and enjoyable week-long celebration of literature, books, and ideas at thier home in Carriageworks in Sydney's Inner West. Since its inception in 1997, the festival has brought together top novelists, poets, journalists, public intellectuals, economists, politicians, podcasters, and scientists to delve into contemporary issues on its stages. By featuring a diverse array of Australian and international writers, the festival plays a vital role in fostering Australia's literary community and enriching its cultural landscape. This year, six British writers will take part in the festival.

Katy Hessel

Katy Hessel is an art historian, curator, broadcaster and author of The Story of Art without Men, an international bestseller and Waterstones Book of the Year 2022.

She runs @thegreatwomenartists, an Instagram account that has celebrated women artists on a daily basis since 2015, and hosts The Great Women Artists Podcast, where she has interviewed Tracey Emin and Marina Abramović.

Katy has curated exhibitions across the globe, lectured at The National Gallery and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, presented radio and television programmes for the BBC and writes a fortnightly column for The Guardian. She is a Visiting Fellow of Cambridge University. More info here.

David Wengrow 

David Wengrow is an archaeologist and co-author, with David Graeber, of The New York Times and international bestseller The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity. More info here.

Abdulrazak Gurnah

Abdulrazak Gurnah is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021.

He is the author of ten novels: Memory of Departure, Pilgrims Way, Dottie, Paradise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award), Admiring Silence, By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award), Desertion (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize), The Last Gift, Gravel Heart and Afterlives, which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Fiction 2021 and longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize. 

He was Professor of English at the University of Kent and was a Man Booker Prize judge in 2016. He lives in Canterbury. More info here.

Samantha Shannon

Samantha Shannon is The New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of the Bone Season series and the Roots of Chaos series. Her work has been translated into 26 languages. She lives in London. More info here.

Anthony Grayling

A. C. Grayling CBE MA DPhil is the Principal of Northeastern University London and its Professor of Philosophy. He is a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. He is the author of over thirty books of philosophy, biography, history of ideas and essays.

He was a columnist for The Guardian, The Times and Prospect Magazine. He has twice been a judge for The Booker Prize, in 2014 serving as the Chair of the judging panel.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Vice President of Humanists UK, Patron of the Defence Humanists, Honorary Associate of the Secular Society and a Patron of Dignity in Dying. More info here.

Natalie Haynes 

Natalie Haynes is a writer and broadcaster and – according to The Washington Post – a rock star mythologist.

Her first novel, The Amber Fury, was published to great acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. A Thousand Ships, was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2020. Her non-fiction book, Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myth reached number two in The New York Times bestseller chart. Her latest book, Divine Might, was published in September 2023.

She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4 where nine series of her show, Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, have been broadcast. More info here.


Katy Hessel Sessions

Katy Hessel and Tracey Moffatt

·       Wed 22 May at 6pm, Art Gallery of NSW, Meers Hall

Hear from legendary Australian contemporary artist, photographer and filmmaker Tracey Moffatt in this rare live interview. Presenting as part of Art Gallery of NSW’s Art After Hours, Tracey will be joined on stage by art historian and bestselling author of The Story of Art Without Men, Katy Hessel. Katy’s brilliant podcast, The Great Women Artists, won British Vogue’s seal of approval and has featured luminaries including Marina Abramović and Tracey Emin. Join them as they discuss Tracey’s career highlights as a bona fide art star, including her films premiering at Cannes, representing Australia at the Venice Biennale and holding over 100 solo exhibitions at major galleries worldwide.

Katy Hessel: The Story of Art Without Men

·       Sat 25 May at 3pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20

How many women artists do you know? Who makes art history? And what is the Baroque anyway? Enter art historian and curator Katy Hessel’s The Story of Art Without Men, a response to E.H. Gombrich’s classic chronicle, The Story of Art, first published in 1950, which was recently updated to include... one woman. Katy’s revisionist history builds on her popular podcast and Instagram account, The Great Women Artists, where her fresh approach has garnered fans worldwide and earned her a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list. Overturn art history as you know it with Katy, in conversation with curator Beatrice Gralton.

Katy Hessel: The Story of Art Without Men at Bundanon

·       Sun 26 May at 1pm, Boyd Education Centre, Bundanon

Overturn art history as you knew it, with Katy and host Rachel Kent, Bundanon CEO.

David Wengrow Sessions

How to Rewrite the History Books

·       Fri 24 May at 1pm

·       Carriageworks, Bay 24

Who writes historical records? How do we reckon with days gone by? And what happens when outworn stories need to be reconsidered? This free panel event features two acclaimed thinkers on digging up the past: bestselling archaeologist David Wengrow (The Dawn of Everything), and writer and farmer Bruce Pascoe (Black Duck and Dark Emu). Learn from these trailblazing writers, whose work has transformed our understanding of human history. Historian Anna Clark will lead this discussion exploring the nature of the archives that we use to study history, from traditional archives and archaeologist records, to archives in nature and landscape including Country as an archive and historical actor.Hear from Bruce and David on the ways they have overturned history as we knew it.

David Wengrow: The Dawn of Everything

·       Sun 26 May at 1.30pm

·       Carriageworks, Track 8

What kind of world could we create if we stopped believing inequality is the price of progress? Archaeology professor David Wengrow’s groundbreaking book, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, co-authored with the late David Graeber, overturns the theories of Yuval Noah Harari Sapiens, Jared Diamond Guns, Germs, and Steel and Steven Pinker Enlightenment Now. Challenging dominant narratives that the agricultural revolution meant abandoning an egalitarian Eden, the book unearths advanced early civilisations that weren’t governed by kings, presidents or authoritarian rule. Transform your understanding of human evolution with David, in conversation with ABC RN’s Richard Fidler, and learn how rewriting history may provide political inspiration for today.

Abdulrazak Gurnah Sessions

Abdulrazak Gurnah: Afterlives

·       Fri 24 May at 2pm

·       Carriageworks, Bay 17

At 18, Abdulrazak Gurnah arrived in England as a refugee from the Zanzibar Revolution. Receiving the Nobel Prize more than 50 years later, he reflected that the “prolonged period of poverty and alienation” he experienced made him a writer. From the contemporary immigrant experience in his debut, Memory of Departure, to colonial wartime conscription in Booker Prize shortlisted Paradise, Abdulrazak’s unflinching yet humane oeuvre interrogates the legacies of empire, centring that which is often too marginalised. Listen as he and writer Sisonke Msimang discuss his tenth novel, Afterlives – an intergenerational portrait of love and loss under German occupation in East Africa.

Africa Now

·       Sat 25 May at 7:30pm

·       Carriageworks, Track 8

In Abdulrazak Gurnah’s novel, By the Sea, his Zanzibar-born protagonist recalls the narratives passed down from British colonists: “In their books I read unflattering accounts of my history, and because they were unflattering, they seemed truer than the stories we told ourselves.” Celebrate the tales told by African diasporic writers themselves in this special event, which brings together the Nobel Prize–winning author with internationally bestselling novelist Leïla Slimani, comedian and memoirist Oliver Twist and writer and host Sisonke Msimang. Hear stories from Zanzibar, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa and beyond as these remarkable writers consider the places that made them.

Samantha Shannon Sessions

Fantastical Worlds

·       Thu 23 May at 6pm

·       Carriageworks, Bay 17

Imagine another world with the fantasy writers who are redefining the wildly popular genre. Australian fantasy heavyweight Garth Nix (The Old Kingdom series) takes to the stage with ascending local star Shelley Parker-Chan (The Radiant Emperor duology) and global sensation Samantha Shannon (The Roots of Chaos series) to explain how they create expansive universes for their epic stories, heroes and heroines. Don’t miss this must-see event for YA and fantasy fans alike! Hosted by Aimée Lindorff.


·       Fri 24 May at 7:30pm

·       Carriageworks, Bay 17

Vulnerable and fierce, hilarious and heartbreaking, Queerstories celebrates the culture and creativity of the LGBTQI+ community one true story at a time. Featuring J.M Field, George Haddad, Bebe Oliver, K Patrick and Samantha Shannon, each guest is invited to share the story they want to tell, but are never asked to; unexpected tales of pride, prejudice, resilience and resistance. An institution around the country, Queerstories has played to crowds big and small, from Mudgee to Murwillumbah, Albury to Adelaide, Brisbane and beyond, with an award-winning podcast featuring an archive of nearly 400 queer tales.

Samantha Shannon on The Roots of Chaos series

·       Sat 25 May at 11am

·       Carriageworks, Bay 20

At 21, Samantha Shannon was hailed as the next big thing in genre fiction for her bestselling dystopian debut, The Bone Season. Samantha’s latest queer fantasy series, The Roots of Chaos, is a feat of feminist worldbuilding, reimagining the legend of Saint George and the Dragon to create a universe where princesses save themselves. Following smash-hit The Priory of the Orange Tree, the prequel, A Day of Fallen Night, is an engrossing saga about a world on the brink of war with dragons – and the women warriors who must protect humankind. Meet fantasy’s new mother of dragons, joined on stage by Shelley Parker-Chan.

Anthony Grayling Sessions

A.C. Grayling: The Meaning of Life in a Technological Age

·       Fri 24 May at 10am

·       Carriageworks, Bay 17

“It shouldn’t be the business of a philosopher today to tell people what to think”, says A. C. Grayling, but rather “how to think”. The quest for a life worth living has been the business of philosophers for millennia. How can we pursue answers to life’s big questions in a world that feels increasingly dangerous and unstable thanks to big tech and AI? Unpack the ‘how’ in this unmissable talk from the pre-eminent philosopher, who returns to Australia following his sell-out public lectures last year.

Do We Need Books?

·       Fri 24 May at 7:30pm

·       Carriageworks, Bay 20

Are you ready to burst your filter bubble? To hit pause on righteous anger? To answer the ultimate literary question, once and for all: do we really need books? Hosted by Academy and Emmy Award–winning film and TV producer Emile Sherman and business leader and former human rights activist Lloyd Vogelman, Principle of Charity is a podcast which injects curiosity and generosity back into difficult conversations, bringing together two expert guests with opposing views on big social issues. Battle it out with philosopher A.C. Grayling and art historian and content creator Mary McGillivray in this special live recording, which will put Boomers and Gen Z head-to-head. Books are dead! Long live books!

Natalie Haynes Sessions

Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics

·       Thu 23 May at 5pm

·       Carriageworks, Track 12

Step back in time with writer and broadcaster Natalie Haynes (Pandora's Jar, Divine Might) in this special live edition of her wildly popular BBC Radio 4 show. This comical guide to Ancient Greece and Rome sees Haynes combine comedy and conversation to breathe new life into the classics. Across four seasons she's profiled key figures from ancient Greece and Rome, exhuming everyone from Petronius to Plato. Laugh along with Natalie as she creates a stand-up show around a classical icon.