Watchwords - The BWFestival 2013!

Enthusiastic Brisbane Writers Festival fans meet their favourite authors. Photo courtesy of the Brisbane Writers Festival.


Welcome to the Poor Woman's Guide to the Brisbane Writers Festival

 4–8 September 2013

  Celebrating Everyside of the Story: reading, writing and challenging ideas in the sub-tropical City of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


 The Brisbane Writers Festival at Southbank, Brisbane ran from Wednesday, 4 September 2013 to Sunday, 8 September 2013. Through these four pages you can get a taste of what was on offer on the final day of BWF 2013!



Date and time: From Wednesday, 4 September 2013 to Sunday, 8 September 2013.

Venue: State Library of Queensland, Southbank, Brisbane, and various other locations including Brisbane City Council libraries. Go to the Brisbane Writers Festival website at for more. The printed program insert from the Courier-Mail on Saturday, 27 July 2013 should now be available from some Brisbane City Council libraries. If they don’t have any left, the full program along with a list of participants is available on the BWF website above.

Ticket price: For program sessions and ticket prices go to the Brisbane Writers Festival website at Many events are FREE.

What’s happening: Celebrate words and challenge your ideas with a range of writer talks and feature events. Catch up with some of your much-loved authors and discover new writers. Browse the bookstore for new books and many old favourites. Take the opportunity to improve your own wordsmithing with practical workshops and advice from experts. Relax with a drink at the end of the day in the Festival Club while listening to talented singer/songwriters.

Kids aged 3–8 years will love the Alphabet Zoo with a variety of free activities for the whole family, and students in grades 4–10 will once again be enthralled by World Play, an academic challenge for young readers, writers and illustrators. Return to Watchwords regularly at for a blow by blow coverage of the BWF, along with updates and author profiles.


A Potted History of the Brisbane Writers Festival

A group of Queensland writers and their organisations, including Queensland’s oldest writers’ association, The Fellowship of Australian Writers (QLD) Inc. (FAWQ), got together to hold the Annual Writers Convention, which later morphed into Warana Writers Week in 1962.

For 30 years the Warana spring festival was a significant part of the Queensland calendar. Writers Week was held in the Botanical Gardens and inhabited a few scattered tents where authors hoped their readers would find them. I recall curmudgeonly author, Bill Scott, mumbling something about money and telling me, ‘I’m not going to do this again. This mob couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery!’

Happily, things improved, and in 1986 the Warana Writers Week was expanded to include public events. Some functions were shifted to our brand new South Bank and a few city venues, and there was funding to the tune of about $50,000 from the Australia Council, the Queensland Government and various corporate sponsorships. Bill’s 'brewery' was taken over by a ‘you beaut’ administration and technical services.

In 1988, on a Saturday in September, Brisbane was in serious party mode. The Spring Hill Festival was still going on the City’s northern slopes, Expo was jam-packed on South Bank and nearly 145,000 people gathered in the central business district for the Warana parade. I remember that one; it took nearly three hours for the parade to pass by.

In the wake of Expo 88, Warana was starting to look a bit dated and in 1992 a fire which destroyed most of Warana’s floats and displays spelled the death knell for the former city stopper.

In 1996 the Brisbane Writers Festival became an incorporated association and rapidly became a must see event. It also became a can participate event with 4,000 places for the Schools Program in 2005, rising to 10,000 places in 2006.

The Courier-Mail in Brisbane initially carried the BWF program, but in 2006 a partnership with The Australian ensured that the program was distributed nationally. Brisbane residents who normally got The Courier-Mail as a matter of course, promptly forgot to buy The Australian and plagued Brisbane City Council librarians for the inserts instead.

Until 2007, the Festival occupied marquees erected on the forecourt and lawns in front of the Cultural Centre precinct and the Queensland Art Gallery on South Bank. It was possible to see from buses, trains and river ferries that something special was happening.

People who wouldn’t normally go to a writers’ festival if you paid them, dropped in to find out what was going on and stayed because they became both informed and entertained. That casual attitude was possible because most of the sessions were free and people could just wander in and out at their leisure.

As the people of Brisbane got hooked, the atmosphere fairly hummed with excitement and I personally think that had it not been for this period of relaxed outdoor participation, the Festival would have been hard put to attract the crowds once it relocated to the State Library of Queensland on Southbank in 2007.

The State Library, of course, has everything that opens and shuts and is probably a very suitable venue for a large international writers’ festival as opposed to a smaller local one, but the building is formidably large and the security officers seem to be convinced that everyone carrying a handbag or backpack has a bomb stashed in it and is up to no good. I’m happy to report that this attitude has eased somewhat lately.

The BWF says that in 2010 the Festival audience increased to 30,000 places with 30 international, 90 national and 150 local Festival participants including writers and chairs, so it seems that the transition to an international festival was successful.

The 2011 Festival introduced the BWF Professional development Series, including Australian Writers Marketplace and Publishing in the Young Adult and Children’s market.

There was also a terrific 'Online Literature Festival' for 1,200 students online in regional and remote classrooms to make sure they didn’t miss out and the Word Play program for young readers, writers and illustrators (Grades 4–10) increased in 2011 to 12,000 places – so the youngsters are well catered for.

The Brisbane Writers Festival has become a festival for everybody.

The big tent on Maiwar Green between the State Library of Queensland and GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) hosted sessions during the day and a free entry evening program at night. Photo courtesy of the Brisbane Writers Festival.