Over six days in September 2018 Brisbane Writers Festival explored the theme “what the world needs now”. Over 200 writers from Australia and beyond joined us at the State Library of Queensland to debate, engage, enlighten, challenge and entertain, connecting Queenslanders through the enduring power of story. In its 56th year BWF continued to explore the big ideas, showcasing some of the world’s most influential thinkers each bringing their own unique vision for the future.
Here are just some of the many highlights.
Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. opened the Festival with a stirring and thought-provoking examination of the current state of human rights. Osher Gunsberg, Joe Williams and Samuel Maguire shared their experiences of trauma and the path to healing in a session focused on men’s mental health and Sisonke Msinmang and Katherena Vermette discussed communities, exile and hope. In a sold-out session Professor Marcia Langton, Associate Professor Sandra Phillips, Kaava Watson and Stephen Mam explored where we have come from and where Australia can progress to together.
We gazed into the future – democracy, artificial intelligence, the environment, young people, feminism and ethics. We celebrated our differences with Shireen Morris and Zoya Patel and shared diverse stories with Mem Fox, Imtiaz Ali, Kagi Kowa, Kon Karapangiotidis and Lili Sanchez. For lovers of poetry, Zenobia Frost, Rebecca Jessen, Shastra Deo and Eileen Chong and many other inspiring Australian poets discussed the boundless potential of poetry to communicate human truths.
Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh brought his inimitable style to BWF, talking about everything from Iggy Pop to acid house and the importance of chasing creative inspiration – wherever it might lead you. Brisbane fashionistas were delighted by tales of lifestyles of the rich and famous with Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada) and spec fic fans lined up in their droves to hear from international bestselling author Veronica Roth (Divergent) in a series of sold out events.
Word Play, our program for younger readers and illustrators, saw thousands of book lovers from prep to grade 12 descend upon the State Library of Queensland. Over four days school groups from Queensland and beyond were inspired to discover their writing superpowers, explore and embrace their identities, think about the world differently and most of all, have fun and get creative! In a special one day sold out event at Brisbane Square Library, young adult fiction was celebrated. Love YA, a full day of free programming co-presented by Brisbane City Council Libraries, explored genre highlights including world building in historical fantasy, crafting dystopian futures and cross-cultural narratives in contemporary YA.
Supported by Brisbane City Council and Logan City Council Libraries, we took the Festival to the burbs in a series of engaging free events featuring authors such as Kate Grenville (Secret River), Dervla McTiernan (The Ruin), A.J. Finn (The Woman in the Window) and Manal al-Sharif (Daring to Drive).
Fostering growing communities of aspiring creators is important to us and underpins everything we do. This year we championed emerging local writers with our first ever MicroFiction competition. Finalists enthralled a packed audience at a reading of the winning entries during the Festival – a big congratulations to the winners Emily Price (High School Category), Sara El Sayed (University Category) and KW George (Open Category). Working with the Queensland Writers Centre we also delivered a series of immersive workshops on everything from writing poetry to creative non-fiction.
Dr Karl wrapped up with a unique take on what the world needs now that was as entertaining as it was sobering. Between the science and the venn diagrams Dr Karl had a strong message – the more we know the better. Knowledge is power, but only if it is the right kind of knowledge. Facts, not fake news, are what we need to make our world a better place.
Finally, thank you to everyone involved in BWF18. To the writers who shared their experiences and let us into their worlds, to the thousands of patrons for bringing their passion for books and writing, to the volunteers for their tireless enthusiasm and loyalty and to our many partners for supporting us to keep connecting Queenslanders through story.
In the words of Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith, “People are the sprinkles on top of the cake.”
And while the Festival has come to an end, the story continues. We hope you continue to immerse yourself in ideas and stories and keep thinking about what the world needs now. Until next year.