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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | September 24, 2020

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Room to Dream: BWF's Digital Care Package

Room to Dream: BWF’s Digital Care Package
Tom Linkins

In light of current events, the 2020 Brisbane Writers Festival has moved online. Each day from the 31st of August until the 6th of September the public will have free access to talks, readings, and creative presentations from some of Brisbane’s most talented storytellers.

The theme of the digital program is Room to Dream: A Celebration of the Arts Led by Literature. In my interview with Rachel Fry, the exuberant Artistic Director for BWF, she reflected on how writers have been serving our hearts and heads in the calamity of 2020. “They bring us that space of dreaming as an antidote to cynicism–particularly in hard times,” she said, “There’s a lot going on in the world that’s quite hard and exhausting to digest, and whether you want to dive into the fray of the conversation or just stand back and watch from afar–it’s still exhausting.”

Fry’s vision for Room to Dream is to facilitate a digital festival–or ‘digital care package’ as she called it over the phone–where writers, creatives, and the Brisbane community can connect directly to the issues presently at play in the world, or be transported to a space where they can dream of what the future could be. This ‘digital care package’ is about bringing Brisbane “joy and reprieve from the overwhelming exhaustion” by weaving them into themes of “awe and wonder and connection.”

So as not to inflict more screen fatigue on a community already living half of their lives through laptops and phones, Fry and her team have made efforts to decrease the length of the segments from their usual running time. This was just one of the adaptions that had to be made in moving online. Usually the BWF would be host to around 150 artists, but they needed to narrow the digital program down to just fourteen. “I tried to look for a really beautiful mix of artists that represented diversity, different practices, and different voices in the community,” Fry told me when I asked how one tackles narrowing from one hundred and fifty to fourteen.

Having a diverse set of practices represented in the program was important to Fry, “we have such an incredible creative community in Brisbane.” The BWF wanted to tip their hat to the importance of the arts sector in society, and give a struggling industry the platform to say their piece and get paid for it.

Rachel Fry has been working with the BWF for two and a half years now, so I asked her to reflect on one of her favourite panels in that time. “Our festival last year feels like ten years ago,” she laughed, “but I was lucky enough to catch Eve L. Ewing.” Eve L. Ewing is an American poet, not so well-known in Australia, who explores racism, social inequality, and urban policy in her work. “Seeing her talk so passionately about education and poetry–sometimes you can go to an event and there’s just an energy in the room that you can barely articulate. It’s like an exchange of the hearts; she’s given something and you’ve just openly received it.”

Until the BWF is back in the flesh next May, Rachel and her team have put together a stellar digital care package that is sure to tap into that energy she was talking about. The entire program is free and open to all, just head to the website to view the events as they are released.

Stay safe, and stay well read with work from the Room to Dream bookshop.

Titles from the BWF Bookshelf

Room to Dream Lineup:

Aug 31st: Alison Whittaker and Katina Olsen

Sept 1st: Vivian Pham and Camelia Pham

Sept 2nd: James Bradley and Shastra Deo

Sept 3rd: Chris Flynn and Eirian Chapman

Sept 4th: Laura Elvery and Evelyn Araluen

Sept 5th: Jess Scully and Mary Hoang

Sept 6th: Marlee Silva and Rachael Sarra

The Details
What: Brisbane Writers Festival
When: 31st August to 6th September
Where: bwf.org.au/online-events/room-to-dream