The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) returns this year, running from Oct 25 to Oct 29 at the Indonesian town that has become synonymous with books and art.

Now in its 14th year, it has grown in leaps and bounds since it was first conceived by resident Janet DeNeefe in 2004 as a “healing project” in response to the Bali bombing two years prior. Today, it is widely regarded as one of the annual culturally diverse literary events to look forward to.

With more than 150 speakers from 30 countries on board this year, the festival aims to provide a platform for storytelling, idea exchange and inspiration.

“We know there are hundreds of literary events across the world, but what we hear most about our festival is that it is truly magical,” says DeNeefe in a press release.

This year’s theme, “Sangkan Paraning Dumadi”, or Origins, challenges participants to take a step back and look at the big picture: How are we linked to each other as a collective humanity, what are the origins of the elements that shape us, what do we carry with us through life, and what are the things that draw us back time and again?

Marina will be making an appearance this year. Photo: Filepic

One of the main objectives of this theme is to encourage participants and visitors to contemplate connections with each other and everything around us – surely a worthy goal during this time of global unrest and political turmoil.

“What started as a community initiative has grown into a global hub of ideas, experiences and empowerment. It is the perfect place for meaningful cross-cultural exchange at a time when we need it most,” DeNeefe says.

The festival is one of the annual projects of not-for-profit foundation Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati.

Among the authors who will be at the festival this year is Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin, who is best known for his Inspector Rebus novels that have won critical praise for their elaborate plots, and Canadian short story writer and novelist Madeleine Thien whose works set in the diasporic histories of Asian communities have won her multiple awards.

Malaysia’s well-known socio-political author and activist Marina Mahathir will also be present at Ubud, to share her thoughts on breaking free from the shackles of the societal norms you are born into.

Children & Youth Program: Make A Short Film at an earlier edition of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Photo: Greg Saunders.

Festival visitors will also be able to get up close and personal with India-born Australian Saroo Brierley, the man behind the autobiographical work A Long Way Home that was subsequently adapted into the 2016 film, Lion, starring Dev Patel. Brierley was adopted by an Australian couple as a child and only reunited with his biological mother 25 years later. His story garnered significant international media attention, particularly in India and Australia.

Other notable speakers include climatologist and conservationist Tim Flannery, who will lead a discussion on our environmental responsibilities to future generations; MTV World founder Nusrat Durrani; journalist/novelist Robert Dessaix; memoirist Kate Holden; filmmaker Erik Est; and novelist/social entrepreneur Ahmad Fuadi.

With an equally strong focus on the Indonesian literary and artistic landscape, the festival will also showcase the nation’s emerging and established writers and artists, such as journalist Leila S. Chudori and social commentator Seno Gumira Ajidarma.

A packed Indonesian short film showcase at a previous edition of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Photo: Wirasathya Darmaja


For more information and entrance fee rates, go toubudwritersfestival.com.