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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | April 1, 2020

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Pathfinder: Festival director Sarah Gory

Pathfinder: Festival director Sarah Gory

| On 23, Aug 2013

The creative industries can sometimes seem a contradiction in terms – projects everywhere, but never a career in sight. The Pathfinder series features interviews with Brisbane’s leading creative practitioners, trailblazers on the long road from artistic hobby to a professional calling.

Sarah Gory

Festival director Sarah Gory. Image: Queensland Poetry Festival.

Sarah Gory began directing the Queensland Poetry Festival in 2011.

Her annual cycle of spreadsheets and artist submissions, online marketing and painstaking logistical triple-checking builds to a crescendo this week – all for three beautiful days.

This is the pointy end of the cultural landscape, where sharp deadlines and plummeting economic realities demand exactly the kind of furrowed brows many artists try to avoid.

I spoke to Sarah Gory about managing the arts and directing Australia’s largest poetry festival.

CD: How long does an event like this take to organise?

It’s year-round because there are about sixty artists who come to the festival – half local and half interstate or international.

It gets really busy when we’re finalising the program in March-April, and from the launch at the end of June right through to the festival.

CD: And what’s your role as festival director?

Because QPF is a smaller organisation, I do everything from programming the festival to bookkeeping and the marketing.

There is a program committee of volunteers who go through expressions of interests, and on the ground during the festival I have a stage manager and volunteers who help with production.

Bertie Blackman will headline the Queensland Poetry Festival’s opening night. Image: Queensland Poetry Festival.

CD: How did you get a foot in the door?

A good friend of mine was the director of the National Young Writers’ Festival in Newcastle.

I just volunteered and helped out and then the following year I came on as the manager, which was quite an extensive role.

A lot of people in the arts find that you put in your time volunteering; my work with the National Young Writers’ Festival for two years was unpaid.

CD: What skills does an arts manager need?

You need to be able to multitask because it’s not necessarily easily contained within nine to five hours.

You’re usually doing a whole lot of different things at once, so you’re producing an event but you’re also liaising with artists and probably doing some management of the budget as well.

You’ve got to be good at spreadsheets, budget management, meeting deadlines – events are always full of deadlines.

CD: Brisbane’s poetry culture is quite healthy at the moment, isn’t it?

It’s a really dynamic and passionate art scene here.

There’s an increase in events, and the fact that poetry events are always well attended speaks to the fact there is a really strong audience.

CD: Any advice for those trying to break into the industry?

Get involved.

If you’ve got a really exciting idea about a new festival or event you want to do yourself, go ahead and do it. Most people in small organisations are always really open to having conversations about supporting other events and new arts managers.

Queensland Poetry Festival

The Queensland Poetry Festival will run from the 23rd to the 25th of August. Image: Queensland Poetry Festival.