How to get the most out of the Brisbane Writers Festival
September has just arrived and, in Brisbane, that means it’s festival season. It’s one of my favourite times of year in South East Queensland, it’s not too cold but not hot, there’s still a crispness in the air, and loads of events are happening around the city.
I block out time every year to go to the Brisbane Writers Festival, and this year I decided to take the week after it off so I could keep those creative juices flowing. The festival in Brisbane only goes for about 4-5 days, with the bulk of the events on the weekend, so I tend to book it up solid, which can make it a stressful day. So here’s some tips on how to get the most out of the Brisbane Writers Festival (or any writers festival really).
Pre-book your paid events
The program is usually release about a month out from the event, so it’s worth sitting down with a coffee and having a look through the events that are coming up and pre-book anything that you really want to go to. Big name authors or topics of the season will be fast to sell out. I try to work out a schedule so events I really want to go to are booked first and then if there are overlaps I’ll weigh up which is more interesting to me.
I’m all about public transport, however on a day I might be buying many many books I’d rather have my car nearby because… books be heavy. There is quite a lot of parking at the Cultural Centre, but it will fill up pretty quickly, especially if you want to park in the library car park, which is directly below where the festival is held. Currently it’s about $17 all day (there’s no alternative costs, just $17 no matter when you arrive and when you leave – pay on entry).
Bring water and snacks (and maybe lunch)
There are a couple of cafes and food trucks at the Cultural Centre, but they will be packed… and in my experience, you could be waiting 15-20 minutes just to get your food. If you have a packed day, that’s cutting into your event times. So I generally take lots of little snacks to keep me going through the day. If I have a spare hour between events I will make the effort to get lunch from a cafe or food truck. There’s lots of little ledges and grass areas you can perch and people watch while you eat. You could even go down by the river and soak up some Spring sun. Bring a refillable water container, there are water bubblers around which you can use to stay hydrated.
Bring a notepad and pen
I always get amazing ideas at the writers festival so bring a notepad and pen, or table, or use your phone, whatever works for you.
Travel light and comfortable
It’s a long day, so don’t weigh yourself down with stuff and dress comfortably, that includes comfy shoes – don’t forget those lines you’ll be standing in.
Bring a book
Lines are long and you end up waiting for up to 15 minutes to get into events, so I find it useful to have something to read while I wait. Bring your own or pick up a new one at the festival!
Purchase the books and get them signed
I used to go purchase books many times over the course of the day as I heard authors talk and discovered I wanted to read their books, but now I just wait for the last day and buy everything at once. This way you don’t have to carry all the books around all day and have just one charge on your credit/debt card. If you do want to get your book signed, however, you’ll want to purchase them around the same time they’ll be signing their books – generally straight after their panel. This is a good opportunity to ask them any questions you didn’t get to during the panel session.
Make your question a question
Speaking of questions… there’s generally ten minutes at the end of each discussion for audience questions and without fail, even though panel chairs remind everyone to keep their question a question, audience members continue to monologue about their thoughts and then just make a comment. Please don’t do this. It’s not only taking up time from other people wanting to ask questions, but it’s also very rude. As an audience member, I don’t really care about listening to your five minute ‘comment’ – just ask the question.
Be on time
Just another stickler for not being rude… try to be on time for your session. So many times I’ve been to writing panels where people come in ten… twenty… thirty (why bother?) minutes late. They stand by the entry, make several attempts to find a seat and climb over the top of people, their bags rustling. If you are late for whatever reason, pick the closest seat you can and sit down quietly. Be respectful of those listening and those panel members talking on stage – otherwise it’s a real disruption to the event.
If I think I’m going to have to leave early because of back-to-back panels (which does happen), I make sure I’m seated on the end of a row and close to the exit so as to cause minimum disruption to others.
Are you attending the Brisbane Writers Festival this week? What are your best tips for getting the most out of the event?