NEW YORK—Chip Rolley, former Artistic Director of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, has joined PEN America as the new Director of the PEN World Voices Festival, the organization announced today. Rolley will also serve as Senior Director of Literary Programs at PEN America, joining a team that includes Festival General Manager Kim Chan and Director of Public Programs Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf.

Originally from Texas, Chip began his career in New York City and has worked as an editor, journalist, and translator. A resident of Sydney for more than 20 years, he was most recently editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s opinion and news analysis website. Prior to that, he spent three seasons curating the 300-plus event and 80,000-attendee Sydney festival, achieving significant growth in attendance and ticket sales. Rolley has a long association with the PEN global network, curating an Olympic Torch-themed translation relay and other programs with PEN International, the network’s parent office in London.

Rolley joins the 2018 PEN World Voices Festival team after a record-breaking 2017 Festival on the theme of Gender and Power. The 2017 celebration comprised more than 70 events featuring the biggest names in literature and entertainment, including festival founder Salman Rushdie, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Samantha Bee, Teju Cole, Masha Gessen, Trevor Noah, and more to tackle the most pressing social and political issues of the Trump era. 

“Watching from 9,000 miles away as both democratic values and the space for art, culture, and free expression came under attack in my home country, I felt compelled to return after more than two decades living abroad,” said Rolley. “This opportunity to lead the world’s only literature festival with a focus on human rights and social justice at this tenuous political moment in the United States is both my privilege and my responsibility as a literary citizen.” 

Founded in the aftermath of 9/11 out of concern that the channels between the U.S. and the rest of the world were narrowing, the PEN World Voices Festival aims to broaden international dialogue and explore the most world’s most pressing issues through art and literature. Since the first festival in 2005, PEN World Voices has brought more 1,700 writers from 118 countries to New York City for its annual weeklong smorgasbord of panels, performances, lectures, and more.

“Chip’s role in raising the profile and expanding the scope of the renowned Sydney Writers Festival and his passion to use literature as a bridge to understanding at a time of rising isolation and polarization make him the ideal person to bring PEN World Voices to the next level of impact both for its core audience in New York City and its expanding reach around the world,” said Suzanne Nossel executive director of PEN America. “This is a moment of tremendous growth and challenge for PEN America and we are delighted to welcome Chip to this essential role on our team.”

Dates for the 2018 PEN World Voices Festival will be announced later this summer.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.