Some of the best things you can immerse yourself in at the Sydney Writers’ Festival won't cost you a thing. From the serenity of the Lawn Library and the convivial atmosphere of the Hemingway Bar, to the Curiosity Lectures and the massive Family Day program, there are so many things to do that will engage, inform, entertain and amuse, for gratis. Here are a few highlights...

SMH Coffee and Papers

Forget the bleary-eyed commute checking Twitter: say good morning and stay informed with a cup of freshly-brewed coffee and great conversation to start your day. Over four days, a roster of Sydney Morning Herald editors and journalists will join Festival guests Norman Ohler, Jenny Valentish, Mikhail Zygar and Ruth Quibell to dish on the headlines and hashtags to follow each day. From 9-10am, Thursday to Sunday, at the lovely surrounds of the Theatre Bar at the End of The Wharf.  

The Curiosity Lecture Series

Dip into wild ideas and different ways of thinking with this lecture series for curious minds. Back by popular demand, the series runs Thursday to Sunday and covers everything from pop culture to politics. Greek myth and Harry Potter? Got that. Taylor Swift? We have that too. Artificial intelligence? The menstrual taboo? Yes and yes. Dip in and out for a guaranteed mind-expanding experience. Browse the full program here

Family Day

If you have a tiny gentle human to entertain, look no further than Family Day on Sunday 28 May. Your free ticket to all the family-friendly fictional fun you can possibly handle, with a line-up including a mobile reading bus, a Charlie and Lola colouring wall, a Roald Dahl book cover exhibition, craft for the under 12s, and loads of author readings, for toddlers to teens. Even better, everything is free all day (with the exception of talks by Lauren Child and Andy Griffiths).

New Australian Voices

Catch four fresh Australian talents reading excerpts from their work – this is a great opportunity to discover a new wave of exciting local authors.

A playful, memorable series of conversations that promise to be the perfect ending to Festival days as they turn into starry nights...

The Hemingway Bar

Hemingway himself was probably most at home on a barstool, and you will be too when you catch our line-up of unmissable free events set to takeover the bar-meets-stage space after dark. A playful, memorable series of conversations that promise to be the perfect ending to Festival days as they turn into starry nights.

Netflix and Chill

On Thursday from 9.30pm, it’s time to Netflix and Chill as Festival guests talk so-bad-it’s-good-TV and pay homage to their guiltiest of screen pleasures.  

Talking 'Til Late With Chris Taylor

From 9.30pm on Friday, Chris Taylor goes off the cuff with Jamie Morton (My Dad Wrote a Porno); bestselling author of the Captive Prince trilogy C.S. Pacat and data editor of The Guardian US, Mona Chalabi. Irreverent questions? Risqué answers? Only time will tell.  

Then on Saturday, Chris Taylor will talk songwriting with Holly Throsby, neurosurgery with Henry Marsh, and Russian politics and power with Mikhail Zygar – possibly all at once. Strap yourself in.      

PEN Lecture

The question of freedom of expression is a fundamental one — and one that is increasingly under fire in today’s political climate of fake news and alternative facts. Justin Gleeson, lawyer and former Solicitor-General of Australia, delves into freedom of speech at home and abroad in this important and timely address.

And the Award Goes To...

We’ve invited some of the just-announced winners of the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards to talk about their work, Australian writing, and the impact of winning. Selected from over 600+ nominees, this is your chance to hear from some of the best in new Australian literature.  

ABC Morning (live broadcast)

Join us for a special live event on Friday, when Michael Cathcart, presenter of ABC RN’s Books and Arts, hosts a live broadcast with top Festival guests. At 11am, Richard Fidler, presenter of ABC Radio’s Conversations, is set to unearth a fascinating real-life story — be part of the audience for these special events for Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Lawn Library

This year, City of Sydney’s pop-up Lawn Library commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that included Aboriginal peoples in the census. A calming environment to relax between sessions, you can also browse the library’s Koori collection, sound archives and photographs and take part in interactive activities.


More free events to discover: