COVID-19 forces Melbourne Writers Festival to shift online

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The impact of the new coronavirus and the restrictions imposed to counter it have forced the Melbourne Writers Festival to shift to an entirely online program this year. It was due to run from August 7 to 16 at the State Library and the Wheeler Centre.

Gene Smith, associate director of MWF, says the festival is exploring online options.

Gene Smith, associate director of MWF, says the festival is exploring online options.Credit:Leah Jing McIntosh

Associate director Gene Smith said while the decision hadn’t come as a complete surprise, he was nevertheless devastated. “We have been contacting all our stakeholders, publishers, artists, partners and supporters.”

Smith said normally the festival would have its schedule of events organised by the end of April. “We put a pause on proceedings around the time we had to start working from home in mid-March. Our roster of international artists was in place and we were in the process of sending out invitations to Australian authors.”

He hopes to have some of what he had already programmed, and that the artists would still be able to participate. “Some of the events will stay relevant, but obviously now there would be a lot more to talk about. We are going to have to recalibrate to bring the conversations to what is happening now, here and overseas.”