The coronavirus pandemic has left organizers no choice but to suspend one of Southeast Asia’s largest annual literary events “until further notice.”
In a statement released earlier today, the Bali-based Mudra Swari Saraswati Foundation said its team had worked around the clock to try and deliver the 2020 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) “safely and according to schedule.” But with the ongoing escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic both in Indonesia and abroad, the health and safety of all those involved in the festival—from the speakers and volunteers to staff and audience members—could not be put at risk.
“The decision was not an easy one to make,” said UWRF founder and director Janet DeNeefe. “It doesn’t just impact our foundation and the festival team, but also means a loss of revenue due to the lack of ticket sales and valuable partnerships.” DeNeefe went on to cite the larger economic impact the event had on local communities in Ubud and Bali for the past 16 years. This year’s UWRF was originally scheduled to take place from October 28 to November 1; uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 situation over the coming months means it is simply not possible to announce an alternative date.
Back in early March, as Indonesia recorded its first confirmed cases of Covid-19, the sixth edition of the UWRF’s sister event, the Ubud Food Festival (UFF), was rescheduled from April 17-19 to June 26–28. A statement at the time said organizers were optimistic that “government and community efforts will have effectively prevented the spread of Covid-19” by then. The three-day celebration would have brought together more than 90 chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and farmers, but it did not take place as planned.
DeNeefe added that people from around the world were welcome to support the foundation’s Yayasan Patron Program and ensure that both the UWRF and UFF go ahead in due course. “Now, more than ever, we need your support,” she said. “We have created ways for you to be a part of the Yayasan Patron Program, tailored to your preference. This way, you can help the foundation and these important events survive!”