After a year of absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) will make its long-awaited return this year. The ten-day UWRF 2021 event will take place from 8-17 October 2021, featuring an exciting line-up of storytellers in fascinating discussions, intimate exclusive events and great performances, both on-site and online. Not only that, this year UWRF will expand its programme of events to Perth, Australia from 8-10 October 2021.

As one of the world’s leading literary events, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is one of Bali’s biggest annual events that island dwellers and international visitors look forward to each year. First held in 2004 as a healing project in regards to the first Bali bombings, UWRF is one of the largest yearly projects of Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, a non-profit foundation. The Festival gathers an eclectic combination of Indonesian and international writers, speakers, thinkers, artists, advocates, commentators, and activists to provide a space and platform for multi-cultural discussions and networking.

2021 Festival Theme
Collaboration with Writing WA, Perth
Headliners, Program, Tickets

Image Credit: Anggara Mahendra

The Theme

In celebration of its 18th year, UWRF 2021 will see authors, artists, and activists from around the globe, who will be sharing astonishing stories and daring ideas from the perspective of this year’s theme – Mulat Sarira – which is interpreted as Self-Reflection in English.

Derived from a Balinese-Hindu philosophy, Mulat Sarira is the spiritual belief of evaluating one’s actions, thoughts and values to eventually develop the truest sense of self-understanding and interconnectedness in search of Dharma, the Truth. Self-reflection has never been more relevant than now as the global crisis caused by the pandemic has compelled many to delve into deep reflection and reinvest in themselves and their community.

These are not normal times and many of us are still trying to value and evaluate the turbulence of this journey, to navigate a path to calmness, comfort, and clarity,” said UWRF Founder and Director Janet DeNeefe. “The Festival will delve into self-reflection and beyond, into cultural retrospection, human rights, animal rights, the environment, and to examine who we are and what unites and divides us.”

UWRF Perth

With Bali’s international borders still closed, many of the festival’s loyal attendees from Australia won’t be able to make the trip to Bali for UWRF 2021, hence why UWRF is partnering up with Writing Western Australia (Writing WA) to take the festival over to the land down under, from 8-10 October 2021. Held at The Rechabite Hall, Northbridge, UWRF Perth is supported with investment from the State Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.

“Writing Western Australia is delighted to be partnering with UWRF to bring this vibrant and internationally-renowned literary festival to Australia,” said Sharon Flindell, CEO of Writing WA. “Over the past ten years Writing WA has worked closely with the incredible team at UWRF, sponsoring numerous West Australian writers and illustrators to travel to Indonesia to participate, and hosting the special KEMBALI20 program. UWRF Perth will be a hybrid festival combining both live and digital events, bringing the creativity, insight, and reflection of UWRF to Perth.”

Headliners and Programmes

This year, UWRF 2021will be enlivened by over 130 profound authors, journalists, artists and activists in the ten-day programme of in-conversations, panel discussions, writing workshops, sharing astonishing stories and bold ideas.

One of the headliners of the festival will be Amitav Ghosh, an Indian writer and recipient of the 54th Jnapith award, India’s highest literary honour, who will share the story of Western colonialism’s conquest and violent exploitation in the Banda Islands, Maluku, is the beginnings of climate change’s current dynamics. He will be joining Hilmar Farid, the Director-General of Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture, in a conversation on the role of spices in a nation’s development.

André Aciman, award-winning Italian-American author of Call Me by Your Name, will discuss his latest work, Homo Irrealis, and delve into what time means to artists who cannot grasp life in the present. Additionally, the highly-acclaimed Mexican-American Poet, Ada Limón, will talk about her collection of poems, The Carrying, as she shares what it means to live in an imperfect world.

In conjunction with this year’s theme of self-reflection, Australian journalist, Julia Baird, and distinguished Indonesian broadcaster, Desi Anwar, will share their enlightening discovery of self-reflection, while Balinese author, Cok Sawitri, will explore the Balinese philosophy behind Mulat Sarira and its role in literature.

The festival also welcomes influential South Korean contemporary poet, Kim Hyesoon, who will discuss how she gives a voice to death and trauma through her poems in Autobiography of Death. Also joining the festival is award-winning American-Canadian author, Ruth Ozeki, who will talk about her process of writing The Book of Form and Emptiness, a heart-wrenching and humane story of the chaos of the world and its meaning.

Moreover, prominent Indonesian author, Ayu Utami, together with Fogarty Award-winner, Rebecca Higgie, will share the stage and screen with Professor Krishna Sen to discuss the utilisation of mythical characters and magic realism in Australian and Indonesian literature.

This year, we will delve into tangible and imaginary landscapes. To which part of normal do we wish to return and what lessons learned will we take into the future? We are proud to bring you an international platform for cross-cultural discussions, performances, and ideas,” DeNeefe continued.

If you enjoy extraordinary stories, brave ideas, and unique insights into our beautiful Island, come and share our 18th year with us, and experience the magic we’re now famous for.”

For more information on Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2021, visit For more information and ticket bookings for UWRF Perth, please visit

Watch NOW!s interview with Festival Director Janet DeNeefe:

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival
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NOW Bali Editorial Team

NOW Bali Editorial Team

This article has been written or uploaded by NOW! Bali's in-house editorial team.