Message from Janet DeNeefe

Posted: 05 June 2020

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March, the future of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2020 has been continuously discussed by the Festival team. As a major initiative of Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, a non-profit arts and cultural foundation, we have kept abreast of developments, both from the Indonesian Government and World Health Organization, and used them as a reference for Festival discussions.

With a heavy heart, we have decided that we must postpone the Indonesian Emerging Writers 2020. As one of our Foundation’s most treasured projects, it relies heavily on funds from sponsors and those who value young, creative Indonesian voices and with our current dire financial state and the uncertainty of UWRF, it is sadly not possible.

Each year, we open submissions from emerging writers across the archipelago to join the selection process. The enormous success of the program led us to review submission guidelines last year. Up to 12 works are chosen, depending on funding, and the writers are then flown to Ubud to participate in the Festival, where they network with Indonesian and international writers, engage with a wider audience and be inspired by 4 days of words and ideas. Their work is also published in the UWRF anthology. It can be a life-changing, highly rewarding experience for them and one that we are so proud to have created. This year’s submitted works, around 600, will now be selected in 2021.

The Festival team is currently working around the clock to find a way to keep UWRF running according to schedule. We believe it is especially important this year as the UWRF was born of the first Bali Bombings with an aim to reflower and revitalise the community and boost the economy. Now, more than ever, the show must somehow go on.

Bali is one of the most affected regions in Indonesia due to its heavy reliance on tourism. “Bali is one of the hardest hit regions due to the pandemic in Indonesia, as around 60 percent of its gross regional product (PDRB) comes from tourism,” said Bali Deputy Governor Tjokorda Oka Sukawati, quoted by Over the years, UWRF has created significant economic benefits across all tourism sectors, from air travel, hotels, transport, restaurants and retail, to farmers in the rice fields. As one of the largest literary festivals in Southeast Asia and Indonesia’s most important cross-cultural gathering, our aim is to showcase Indonesian culture on a global stage. And more than 16 years later, we believe we have achieved our goal.

We will continue to provide information regarding UWRF20 and hope, with favourable conditions, that we can all meet in Ubud to celebrate. For further questions, please contact us at