Thursday, September 10, 2009

Opening Address of the Brisbane Writers Festival

Last night, September 9, was the opening of the 2009 Brisbane Writers Festival. Jane O'Hara, the artistic director, gave an engaging welcome to the audience, describing those filling the seats and those that would come to stroll the halls of the State Library of Queensland as a "hum of authors" - strong, resonant, engaging, soft, loud, but always present.

This was followed by Noel Pearson as the guest speaker for the Opening Night of the Festival. Mr Pearson's words confronted, divided, challenged, moved, outraged, infuriated, offended, inspired - the content ranging from philosophical questions of social versus individual progress, to altruism and self interest in the face of climate change, to the land rights issue in the Wild Rivers area of Cape York. Mulling in the Breezeway tent afterwards, opinion was mixed on the choice of Mr Pearson and the content of his address and conversations could be overheard that sung his praise or disapproved of the choice of him as a speaker. Was this the forum for a long-term activist to be airing his grievances? Did the content of his speech have anything to do with a writers festival? Were his issues, his anger, his outrage, and his emotion, too much for a Brisbane audience to bear at 6pm on a Wednesday evening?

Regardless of what you think about Mr Pearson and the content of his speech - one thing is certain: it got people talking. And that's what festivals are about - debate, ideas, being pushed outside the comfort zone. That's why people attend writers festivals, otherwise they would stay away, preferring to be distracted and comforted by reruns of football finals in the company of those who always agree with their point of view. Writers festivals are designed to expand the mind, to present ideas to the grey cells of the brain that are otherwise stagnated at the desk jobs or Saturday morning soccer matches, and to provoke conversation topics that stray from the usual discussions of the state of road works in Brisbane CBD. The simple act of sitting, listening, and listening some more is something that we have become so unaccustomed to, preferring to be distracted by a palm held device starting with i-. It is incredibly therapeutic to allow yourself an hour, or two or three, to listen to what someone else has to say, and then think about it.


  1. Writers have a fun to dive to the depth of the things and they have the ability to come out the points which a common man cannot think , so those people who know this fact , they will come to attend these kinds of festivals which broadness their minds for the specific topic. Landscape designs

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