Where Stories Live – The Brisbane Writers Festival 2021

March 23, 2021


2020 was a tough year for the arts and the annual Brisbane Writers Festival became an online event. This year it is back in hybrid form, with a range of online events and in person conversations. SheSociety were very excited to be invited to the launch of the festival, which was the very first event held on the beautiful State Library of Queensland Terrace for more than a year. 

We were greeted by CEO Sarah Runcie, the entertaining Councillor Vicki Howard and this year’s Guest Curator, Benjamin Law. Benjamin will be hosting a range of events this year. Guests mingled happily and were treated to drinks and a delicious canapés box from AbFab catering. This year the theme is Where Stories Live. Stories live in our community, our natural world, our history, our imaginations and our hearts.

 One of the innovations in the lead up to the festival’s 60th year is the First Word /Last Word events which invite Indigenous artists to deliver the opening and closing words of the festival.Talented Aboriginal / Dutch writer of poetry, fiction and non -fiction, Ellen van Neeren will be this year’s First and Last Word speaker. She will present first at a free event celebrating the vibrant legacy of Indigenous storytelling which includes a traditional smoking ceremony. She will then close the program with a First Nations perspective on prominent themes and ideas which have come from festival conversations. Stories live in the hearts and minds of Indigenous Australians.

One not to be missed on Mother’s Day is High Tea with Kate Morton at Customs House. I love Kate’s writing. Her international bestsellers include The Shifting Fog, The Forgotten Garden and most recently The Clockmaker’s Daughter. In this special event Kate will be discussing her life as a writer, her love of storytelling , her inspirations and her motivations. It was wonderful to see Kate at the launch in her hometown of Brisbane. Kate grew up in Paddington but has lived in London for a long time and it’s so great to see many of our talented writers migrating home. Stories live in history and homes.

Brisbane’s favourite son, Trent Dalton will be in conversation with Frances Whiting on the Saturday afternoon.These two are great mates and the banter is always entertaining. Trent will be talking about his latest bestseller, All Our Shimmering Skies, in The Edge auditorium. On a side note Frances’ lovely book, The Best Kind of Beautiful, will be made into a TV series in the near future.These two local authors from The Gap/ Ashgrove suburbs live within cooee of me. Stories can live nearby. 

 Another Gap talent is Richard Fidler who will be in conversation with Steve Austin on Sunday morning. He’ll be chatting about his new novel The Golden Maze which details the intriguing history of Prague. This is the story of the fairytale city at the heart of Europe told from every conceivable angle. Richard is the bestselling author of Saga Land and Ghost Empire and you will recognise his golden voice from Richard Fidler’s In Conversation… on ABC radio. Stories can live in distant lands or in the past. 

The hilarious Melbourne born writer and comedian, Jean Kittson will be in conversation with Kelly Higgins – Devine in a session titled We Need To Talk About Mum and Dad. This will be a highlight of the festival with Jean talking about how to support parents as they age. Jean’s book is a warm and practical guide on how to navigate government bureaucracy and support ageing parents health and well being. Jean’s heartfelt stories offer advice and a positive spin on this often difficult time. Stories live within our families. 

Another special event is the screening of Damon Gameau’s film 2040 at the Palace Barracks on Saturday 8th May. Damon will hold a Q & A Session after the viewing. I have seen Damon’s magnificent and groundbreaking documentary on what life will be like in 2040 and he offers positive solutions and an optimistic message on climate change. His book 2040 will be on sale throughout the festival. Stories live in our environment.

Many local writers were at the launch including Krissy Kneen, Anne Richards, Michelle Law and Sally Piper, who I am excited to share has her book,The Geography of Friendship, being made into a television series by Rose Byrne. Sally is another amazing Brisbane success story from UQ Press. Other voices to look out for are the award winning Melissa Lucashenko, Tim Flannery, Anita Heiss, Matt Okine, Robert Dessaix and psychologist Mary Hoang who will be leading the audience in a special ‘ death meditation’. Stories live within people. 

The full program of in person and online events can be found online at bwf.org.au . Most events will be in and around the State Library Queensland, with the popular Love YA on again at Brisbane Square Library. Where do stories live? In May 2021 stories live right here in the river city of Brisbane. Head along to learn, listen and find your own story. 

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