IT’S a case of one chapter closing and another beginning with the Brisbane Writers Festival unveiling a new leadership team ahead of the hotly-awaited launch of its 2023 festival program.
- The Festival farewells its dynamic Chief Executive Sarah Runcie this week, after almost three successful years at the helm of the Festival, including its 60th anniversary last year.
- Festival Operations & Special Events Manager Melissa Bates will step up as acting CEO in the months leading to the 2023 Festival in May, drawing on her extensive experience in the banking and finance sectors.
- The Festival is excited to announce award-winning author and accomplished arts administrator Jackie Ryan as the Festival’s new Artistic Director.
Brisbane Writers Festival chair Justice Thomas Bradley thanked Sarah for ensuring the Festival flourished in the face of unprecedented difficulties wrought by COVID lockdowns.
“I applaud Sarah for her drive and enthusiasm as CEO,” Justice Bradley said.
“She was undaunted when called upon to lead our team as they took the Festival online at the height of COVID, then hosted hybrid events and finally created an inspirational program to bring audiences back to the Festival in person last year.
“One of Sarah’s greatest achievements was to deliver our unique Country of Focus stream, in which the Festival highlights a selection of works from a specific international region or nation. Last year, New Zealand/Aotearoa and Pasifika writers were the focus. This year, we are excited to showcase works from South Korea.”
Ms Runcie said it had been “the honour of my career” to steer the Festival to its sixtieth anniversary.
“I am very proud of the many 'new traditions' we have started in reimagining the festival despite challenging times,” Ms Runcie said. “I am proud of initiating our Mother's Day High Tea event, giving the Marion Taylor address a Gala treatment, building our hybrid program with series like our Author/Editor series, and our Word Play offering.
“I am so proud of premiering the marvellous poetry collective 'Show Ponies' from Aotearoa, launching the Melanesian Writing Collective, Black Salt, and the innovative project Tender with A Published Event. I am proud of securing our many new benefactors and sponsors, as well as continuing a number of the crucial partnerships the Festival has enjoyed over the years. “I am proud of the many new relationships we started through our partner events such as Brisbane Music Festival, Queensland Youth Orchestra, Musica Viva Queensland, and artisan to name a few. I am proud to have proactively supported the cause of print accessibility through raising funds for Braille House. I am proud of initiating our curatorial model which embeds a diversity of voices into the heart of our programming.
“But I am most proud of the small but mighty team that I have had the pleasure of working with over the last two and a half years. In particular, I would like to mention the indefatigable Melissa Bates, the wonderful Emily Bowman, Amy Zaghini, Ella Peile, and our newly minted Artistic Director, Jackie Ryan. I know I leave the festival in very capable hands."
Ms Ryan has been with the Festival as Head of Programming since 2022, during which time she impressed the board and team with her passion for the Australian writing community and building connections with local readers and audiences.
She brings arts administration experience drawn from stints with the State Library of Queensland, Queensland Writers Centre and Avid Reader Bookshop. Jackie’s most recent book, We’ll Show the World: Expo 88 (UQP 2018) won two Queensland Literary Awards and was shortlisted for The Courier-Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year Award.
Ms Ryan and the BWF team are currently putting the finishing touches on the programme for the 2023 Brisbane Writers Festival, which will be launched at the State Library of Queensland on 29 March. The 2023 Festival will run from 10–14 May