Are we trying too hard to be popular? Feel free to disagree!

September 14, 2016

Citizens of Brisbane, I think we are trying too hard to be popular and impress. We want our friends (sister cities) to think we’re cool and sophisticated. We don’t want them talking about us behind our back and calling us BrisVegas.

But why do we need the approval of our sister cities? What do we care if they think we are young and shiny and green? Bring it on.

I ask this, because I went to a few events at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival last week. Sorry, it’s now called UpLit … Lit for literature. Not sure what the Up was for because I wasn’t feeling up afterwards.

I was so disappointed. I paid $17 in advance for the pleasure of hearing a panel talk, only to arrive to see a sign reading “All tickets today now $10”. Goodo.

Then, it was pretty much all downhill. The MC of the event that I won’t specify was trying too hard to be intellectual in my opinion. The questions were complex, framed in a highbrow fashion. My companion and I looked at each a few times with questioning looks and I’m Postgrad Lit and she’s a solicitor!

The panel occasionally began to work up to a discussion only to be shut down and brought back to the questions. One at a time, each getting a turn. Such a shame, so dull. No reflection on the fascinating ladies on the panel including the amazing Anita Heiss … what an inspiration!

I remember when …

You see, I remember when the Brisbane Writers’ Festival was for writers. I can remember sitting with a girlfriend and circling all the events we were going to attend the week prior. On the day, we’d race from event to event … Matthew Reilly speaking on how he writes, another author talking about the importance of landscape/cityscape in a novel, stopping to have a bite on the lawns of South Bank between events.

I learnt things. When I had an open window in my schedule, I’d race into one of the marquees and watched the heated debate between panels.

I didn’t pay a cent. Not that I wouldn’t have happily paid up to $35 for a day pass or maybe $50 for a two-day pass. Am I tight? It’s the toll theory … keep the price down, more consumers will use/buy. That’s also what sponsorship is for … to keep the price down.

In the past, it was exciting to just be up close and personal with an author you loved and to hear them present a colourful speech with tips and tricks – not be interviewed, not be restricted.

Over the years, it has become for readers not writers.

I can remember in latter years when Jessica Rudd and other authors were talking about their books and you PAID to see them. What the…? Their publishers should have paid to have them there to garner book sales. Because straight after their presentation, they went to the book signing table. That hasn’t changed.

It is not surprising events like Genre Con are taking over … not scared to feature romance (one of the country’s biggest selling genres) amongst others. No love at UpLit … although a couple of romance writers snuck onto the panels including Kylie Kaden and Kirsty Eagar.

Sure, there was plenty of variety this year – presentations and workshops, but each at a price of $12 upwards. Imagine going to ten events for the weekend. That’s getting expensive. Besides, you can do a workshop anytime through your local Writers’ Centre, this is supposed to be a festival!

The categories this year included ‘for the politically minded’ and ‘for the deep thinkers’ and ‘for crime buffs’. What if I’m a deep thinking, crime buff? Mm.

And, this year, for the first time, two ‘Philosophers-in-Residence’ were there to help make sense of it all … thank goodness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a literature major from university so I’m not intimidated, but in my humble opinion, it is just trying too hard to be so sophisticated.

I know some agree with me, some disagree. So your thoughts?

Other festivals … remember Warana?

Speaking of too smart, what a shame we did away with the Warana parade … oh, we couldn’t be that unsophisticated. What would other cities think of us if we still had floats down the street?

Well Moomba (Melbourne) still does. Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers has their parade and New York isn’t too sophisticated to put on The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

It was so exciting to watch the floats from businesses and groups with all their colours and characters; to wave to the princess of the parade and imagine that could be you one day.

Even as an adult I’d love to see that back. What a wonderful outing for all.

But now we have a very mature and clever festival. It’s wonderful, but can’t we just slip a parade in there as well?

Can we just get back to basics?

The views in this article are mine and mine alone (spurred on by some whingeing friends). But I bet you secretly agree!

Amanda Olssen
Amanda Olssen is the mother of two humans and three cats. She studied dramatic arts and literature at university and is now working part-time as a proof-reader while working full-time at being a mum. She is married to a patient man who watches a lot of sport.