With over 35 years of experience Michael has worked as CEO, Artistic Director, an arts consultant and strategist, artistic co-ordinator, producer, events manager, librettist, editor, writer, events manager, director, choreographer and dancer. He was the Festival Director for the Brisbane Writers Festival (2006-2009), and the literary events program at Gleebooks in Sydney for 4 years (2002-2005). He is a former Chair of Currency House, and of its Editorial Committee, and edited Keith Bain on Movement and Keith Bain: The Principles of Movement for Currency House and Oberon Books (UK). He was a principal dancer with West Australian Ballet, Queensland Ballet and Oper der Stadt Köln, and has worked for companies including Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare Company and Griffin Theatre Company.
He has worked for Opera Australia on numerous works including Merry Widow, Handa on Sydney Harbour: Carmen and La Traviata, La Forza del Destino and Salome. In 2004 he directed the opera Madeline Lee, which he also co-wrote, and was nominated for seven Helpmann Awards. The work was restaged by State Opera of South Australia in 2019. Recent creative projects include directing, producing and co-creating The Faces of Mercy – a multi-artform work performed in Sydney and Rome; presenting the TV show For the Love of Books (Studio TV – Foxtel); judging the 2013, 2014, 2016 WA Premier’s Book Awards.
In 2018 he was a member of the Western Sydney Arts, Screen and Culture Roundtable and served on the Creative Arts and Humanities panel for Australia Research Council’s inaugural Engagement and Impact Assessment. In August 2019 Michael was appointed to the inaugural Create NSW Artform Literature Advisory Board. WestWords was awarded the Commbank Excellence in Arts and Culture and Michael personally was shortlisted for Excellence in Business Leadership in the 2020 Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence. In 2021 he was shortlisted for the Impact 25 Awards recognising “innovators, collaborators and changemakers from across the social sector who are making a positive impact in the community”.
James Roy was born in western New South Wales and spent much of his childhood in Papua New Guinea and Fiji, adventuring by day and reading books at night. Then one day, tired of reading books by dead people, he decided to start writing his own. Since his first novel was released in 1996, James has written a number of critically acclaimed works of fiction and non-fiction for young people, including the CBCA Honour Books Captain Mack and Billy Mack’s War, and six CBCA Notable Books.
In 2008, Town also won the Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, as well as the Golden Inky in Australia’s only teenage choice awards. Anonymity Jones won the 2010 Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for young adult literature. His latest book One Thousand Hills, written with Noel Zihabamwe won the NSW Premier Literary Award and a NSW Premier’s History Award.
James lives with his family in the Blue Mountains. He enjoys trying to make music and art, doesn’t like olives very much, and hasn’t entirely abandoned his dream of sailing around the world.
Born on the lands of the Burramattagal of the Dharug Nation in Parramatta Hospital to an Irish Catholic Mother and an African American/Cherokee Father, Christina was born to “document the extremes of an unnarrated Australian experience”. Growing-up, home has been a white fibro home in Merrylands West, a hundred-year-old cottage in Gilgandra, and a cosy caravan in Cambewarra. Reading and writing have always been her solace and joy. Whilst acting and dancing have remained the external manifestation of her wild soul.
Christina worked as a Studio Coordinator for David and John Recordings, a Placement Coordinator for Seven Network Ltd and part of the Office Support Team for Hudson Global Resources where she serviced clients such as Sensis, American Express, ANZ Private Banking Group, realestate.com.au, and The Department of Family and Community Services (formerly DOCS). It was in her role as Creative Director for Sydney’s original Hip Hop dance company Darrio’s Streetdance that Christina met her greatest challenges and triumphs choreographing and performing for such events as Sydney Olympic Arts Festival: Budyari, Sydney Biennale; Sydney Festival First Night; The Urban Music Awards; and, The Australian Dance Music Awards.
It was the birth of her daughters and subsequent family crisis that delivered her back to Western Sydney where she began working within the Rosemeadow/Ambarvale communities with women recovering from domestic violence and as a member on several NGO panels, such as RACI (Rosemeadow Ambarvale Interagency Committee) and C for Children for the administration and funding of child welfare programs and community enrichment activations. As well as funding panels for the Benevolent Society and the organising committee for the Good Neighbour Awards. Christina also works as a Production Manager for Campbelltown Theatre Group.
Christina recently graduated with her Bachelor of Creative Arts (Honours) Class I, Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing), and Bachelor of Communications and Media (Journalism and Professional Writing) from the University of Wollongong. And, was very proud to be included in the Dean’s Merit List for 2019 for Law, Humanities and Arts. Her research area is in decolonial theory and the framing of the African Diasporic voice in Australian Contemporary Literature. She is a practising multidisciplinary artist who has published poetry in the Cordite Poetry Review. Christina recently completed her first poetry collection that dissects the development of identity for a Black child growing up between Australia and Tennessee USA.
Schools’ Program Manager
Sheryl Cootes has been teaching for over thirty years in schools in the Blue Mountains and western Sydney areas. She has been teacher, Assistant Principal and Relieving Principal at Department of Education schools, most recently in the role of Assistant Principal at Bidwill PS, mentoring inexperienced teachers in the use of literature in the classroom and establisiing a culture of ‘reading for pleasure’ among students.
She is a recipient of the Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Australian College of Education Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Sheryl is passionate about engaging students with children’s literature, conducting Book Clubs for senior students and challenging them to read forty books within a school year. She has actively promoted and developed literature resources in all schools at which she worked.
Sheryl is currently President of the Blue Mountains sub-branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (NSW branch), a position she has held since 2015. She has established Little Free Libraries at ten locations in the middle and upper mountains, providing access to quality children’s literature for the broader community. As President of the sub-branch, she has been instrumental in conducting literary dinners and children’s activities in conjunction with Blue Mountains City library and local authors and illustrators.
Sheryl has recently been apppointed as judge for the Eve Pownall Award for the CBCA Book of the Year for 2021-2023.
Digital content producer
Christian has been a multidisciplinary curator, artistic director and producer having worked in Amsterdam and internationally for the past 17 years. He has created exhibitions, public programs, activations and special events for some of the leading cultural institutions in The Netherlands – such as the International Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival (IDFA), Dutch Film Institute (EYE), Van Gogh Museum, Goethe-Institut and Alliance Française. He has also produced feature films and documentaries and, more recently, VR experiences.
Christian moved to Australia at the end of 2016 and has since collaborated with cultural institutions such as Sydney Living Museums, Goethe-Institut, and the Italian Cultural Institute. His areas of expertise cover a wide range of subjects, contexts and audiences.
Kathie Elliott: Square Pegs
Kathie’s corporate background began after a successful career as a professional dancer was cut short due to injury. She completed a Diploma in Business (Marketing) whilst working in business development and management roles within the transport and HR industries, before moving into the Not-for-Profit sector around 12 years ago.
She then worked as a Corporate Partnerships Manager for three large Australian charities and negotiated significant social responsibility programs with ASX listed organisations, coupled with managing fundraising teams, high profile events, direct marketing campaigns, sponsorships, and media relations.
Seeing a gap in the NFP sector for smaller organisations to allocate time and resources to sourcing partnerships and funding, Kathie decided to form her own consultancy, Square Pegs. She is passionate about assisting small to medium arts and social justice organisations source extra funding, sustainability, diversification, and support for their programs through establishing mutually beneficial partnerships, generating revenue and raising their profiles through targeted campaigns and advocacy work.
DMCPR Media (Publicist)
Debbie has been involved in public relations for over thirty years, establishing her boutique agency, DMCPR Media in 1993. Since then, DMCPR has reset the bar in communications strategy delivery, with unprecedented media coverage outcomes for clients in publishing, the arts, music, not-for-profit and corporate arena. Her passion to help others share their message is what has seen her succeed and form long lasting client relationships spanning decades.
Prior to founding her consultancy, Debbie worked in sales at Pan Macmillan publishing house before moving into publicity where she was responsible for big brand author campaigns such as Barbara Taylor Bradford, Jackie Collins, Jack Brabham and Oliver Sacks. This opportunity enabled her to promote in a wide range of areas – the arts, sport, entertainment, business, health, travel, gardening and cookery.