Ann Mossop has been appointed as the new artistic director for the Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF), more than two decades after she first joined its organisation as a board member.
As the director of the Centre for Ideas at UNSW since 2017, Mossop has worked in the performing arts space for most of her life, co-curating the Festival of Dangerous ideas for the Sydney Opera House as well as the popular and much-loved All About Women Festival which began in 2012.
Mossop told the Herald’s book editor, Jason Stegar she has “always been very fond” of the Sydney Writers’ Festival and “stayed in touch with what it was doing.”
“It is unusual to be coming to work for an organisation where you know such a lot of the history and have been paying close attention for such a long time,” she said.
In a separate statement, Mossop said she was “very excited” about her new role.
“It’s a brilliant Festival that is an essential and much-loved part of Sydney life,” she said.
“The Writers’ Festival team have worked tirelessly to keep the flame alive for writers and audiences during two difficult years of COVID disruption. I am looking forward to working with them to create a festival next year that celebrates our local writers and renews the international exchanges bringing the best of books and ideas to Sydney audiences.”
As the Head of Talks and Ideas at Sydney Opera House between 2010 to 2017, Mossop was known as a leader who was “not afraid of starting important and necessary conversations.”
In March 2017, when she stepped into a newly created position as Head of Strategic Events at UNSW, the university’s Vice-President Fiona Docherty said Mossop possessed “wonderful skills and experience” that would “widen those conversations out beyond our campus, and reach out into our community in new and innovative ways.”
Mossop will take over from Michael Williams, who stepped down as director in May after two years in the role.
The festival’s Chair Mark Scott heralds Mossop’s career programming “cutting-edge public conversations,” while CEO of SWF, Brooke Webb praised Mossop’s “experience, strong intellect and remarkable track record” as “extraordinary.”
“Ann has brought the most esteemed and prolific writers and thinkers from Australia and the world to our public conversations and I could not be more excited for the Sydney Writers’ Festival organisation and our audience,’ Webb said in a statement.
Mossop discussed the nature of future festivals with Stegar, insisting that they “…really has to be about the live experience no matter that there will be things that happen in other ways.”
“It’s a really interesting moment to try to tackle these things, but I think the most exciting thing if you’re thinking about a festival in May next year is really bringing audiences back and creating a wonderful rich live experience that people will think ‘gosh I have to be there’.”
Mossop said she hopes to curate programs in the future that will provide a platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers in equal measure.
“The main thing for me will be to make sure that we have some of those international and Australian writers that readers respond to with ‘yes I’m dying to see them’.”
The festivals’ Board of Directors announced Mossop will be apppointed for a three year term.
Mossop’s first SWF will take place 22–28 May, 2023.