above COURTESY OF WORD TRAVELS
Launched on Sunday, Story Week 2023 is a celebration of “great writing powerfully performed”, bringing together spoken word performers, poets, hip hop artists and storytellers in live events all across Sydney. Inspired by this year’s theme of ‘Be Heard – Be Seen’, nearly 100 writers and thinkers will share stories on everything from colonisation and social justice to bookish inspiration and celebrating the strengths in vulnerability.
For the festival’s creative director, Miles Merrill, Story Week 2023 is not just about the voices of the performers, it’s also a reminder that we all have our own stories to tell.
“Story Week embraces all the ways we are heroes in our own narratives,” he says. “This is your space to fill and listen to others pour their words into your ears; gestures into your eyes.”
above MILES MERRILL, PHOTO COURTESY OF WORD TRAVELS
As Story Week 2023 events kick off, we caught up with Miles – who is also a writer and performer – and asked him to select 10 artists from this year’s lineup (not an easy task with so much talent on display) and tell us in his own words why he thinks they are the voices needed to be heard in Australia right now.
left NAZEEM HUSSAIN BY NICKMICKPICS right BEBE BACKHOUSE-OLIVER COURTESY OF WORD TRAVELS
Everything Nazeem Hussain creates – Legally Brown, Orange is the New Brown – is hilarious, hard-hitting and prolific. He’s Australia’s king of satirical comedy, constantly forcing people to ask themselves questions like, “Am I racist?” while also code-switching to write kids’ books.
Bebe Backhouse-Oliver is a descendant of the Bardi Jawi people. Writer, poet, illustrator and speaker, Bebe is also co-chairperson of Blak and Bright First Nations Literary Festival, and a board director of Magabala Books, Australia’s leading Indigenous publishing house.
left DYLIN HARDCASTLE BY LUCY ZAROYKO right HANNAH DIVINEY BY JULIE ADAMS
Dylin Hardcastle is a trans, non-binary author working on their fourth novel, with two television shows in development and they are still under 30.
left LUKE PATTERSON BY GRANT GRIBBLE right SOLLI RAPHAEL BY JAMES MORGAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Gamilaroi poet Luke Patterson curates the Story Week First Nations program while spinning his own poems and playing the violin.
After winning the Australian Poetry Slam at age 12, Solli Raphael has published three books with Penguin, performed at the Commonwealth Games, done a TEDx talk and set up his own climate change NFP. He’s 18.
left NICOLE SMEDE COURTESY OF WORD TRAVELS right LEILA MANSOUR BY TOM TOBY
Not many artists are composers, multi-instrumentalists, poets and event producers, but First Nations artist Nicole Smede is that rare cross-disciplinary powerhouse.
Lebanese poet, spoken word artist and fiction writer Leila Mansour is the 2022 Sydney Poetry Slam champion who performs across multiple stages while also completing a medical degree.
left JO YANG COURTESY OF WORD TRAVELS right MADISON GODFREY BY LOUISE COGHILL
2022 Australian Poetry Slam champion Jo Yang roars her poetry on stage while being a high school teacher in Tennant Creek in the middle of outback NT. She’ll be representing Australia in Rio at the Word Poetry Slam Championships this year.
Multi-award-winning writer and performer, Madison Godfrey is an Australian Poetry Slam national finalist whose debut poetry book Dress Rehearsals has been rocking great reviews since publication in early 2023.