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Bookworm Family Guide to Sydney Writers’ Festival


Bookworms roll up! Are you a budding novelist, wannabe illustrator or avid page-turner? Perhaps you just have a knack for the wacky or an eye for ideas? Arriving on the literary scene in the first week of May, the Sydney Writers’ Festival is brimming with creativity, comedy and kid-friendly capers.

Who, what, when and where

This year, the festival precinct is Carriageworks in Eveleigh. There are some events on around Greater Sydney, particularly at Sydney Town Hall, Parramatta Riverside Theatres and even in the Blue Mountains.

Carriageworks is a 10-minute walk from Redfern or Macdonaldtown train stations. As there is very little residential parking, public transport is definitely your best bet. Festival shuttle buses will operate between Redfern and Carriageworks every 15 minutes from May 3 to May 6, for $1 per passenger.

If there is anything that tickles your family’s fancy, head to the Festival website right away. Book soon, as ticketed events are quickly being snapped up. For kids’ and teens’ events, tickets are generally $5 or $10. 

The official celebration of all things words and pictures runs for the whole week of April 30 to May 6. Pint-sized and teenage visitors will get the most out of a mix of free and ticketed activities on the Saturday and Sunday, so book the weekend in for some festival fun. For their own sakes, Mums and Dads should scope out the grown-up’s program, featuring seminars with the likes of ex-PM Julia Gillard, celebrated writer Helen Garner, Q&A host Tony Jones and reporter and sociologist Hugh Mackay.

Children’s Day

Children’s Day is kicked off with a talk from Diary of a Wimpy Kid creator Jeff Kinney on Saturday afternoon at Sydney Town Hall. On Sunday May 6th, head to Carriageworks between 10am and 4pm for a whole host of hands-on happenings.

Create percussion instruments and Dada art with cardboard and crayons at Casula Powerhouse’s free Dada Music event. Laugh along with On the Spot Stories at 10.30am, when James O’Loghlin and Andrew Cranna write and illustrate a story with audience input before your very eyes. Waltz in and out of the free Colour and Craft Depot with heaps of paper, pencils and activities like the 12.30pm How to Draw a Fart Monster workshop with Tim Miller. Follow that up with the 3.30pm session with Horrible Harriet creator Leigh Hobbs for $5, and learn how to draw characters like Old Tom and Mr Chicken.

For some quiet time at any time during the day, help colour in the huge mural of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and friends for the 100th anniversary of May Gibbs’ popular Aussie children’s classic. Jump on board Russ the Story Bus and take your pick from the selection of storybooks. Every half hour at the Storytime Clubhouse, authors and illustrators will read out their favourites.

Young Adult Day

Teens are not skipped in the equation. Saturday is their day, over at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatre. There is a full agenda of events celebrating YA fiction and non-fiction including talks from international guests such as Cleo Wade and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl writer Jesse Andrews. Witness the verbal repartee of Evelyn Araluen and Omar Musa at the #PoetryDebate. To end on a high note, make the most of audience participation, book giveaways and intel on the newest releases hot off the press at TeenCon hosted by Will Kostakis.

Where to eat

With so much voracious reading and making, you’ll work up an appetite for the multitude of quirky cafes and easy eateries of Parramatta and Redfern. Next door to the Riverside Theatre sits a whole street’s worth of casual all-day dining. Options range from Grill’d, Mad Mex, Thai in a Box and other quick fixes to steakhouses, a Bavarian beer café and pizza and pasta aplenty.

At Redfern, relaxed coffee shops and delightful brunches await. Carriageworks has onsite restaurant of their own called Cornerstone. On Elizabeth Street, you’ll find the much-loved Three Williams café with its spacious, warehouse vibe and Willy’s Corner full of kids toys. Other choices include St Jude’s, Kepos St Kitchen and Scout’s Honour.

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