Brisbane Writers Festival

The big stories and the little ones in between

When BWD was approached by Zoe Pollock, the 2016 Brisbane Writers Festival’s dynamic CEO and Artistic Director, her brief was clear. BWF wanted to build new audiences for literature to ensure the ongoing success of the event. Our campaign would need to help retain the festival’s existing loyal supporters, and establish a foundation for growing new audiences.

The solution

From a branding perspective, the centrepiece of the festival would be Alexis Wright’s critically acclaimed novel, Carpentaria, that was celebrating its 10th anniversary. Zoe had commissioned Aboriginal artist Gordon Hookey to create an artwork for an immersive venue called ‘Angel’s Palace’ – inspired by a character in the book. We too looked to the novel for inspiration and weren’t disappointed.

“One evening in the driest grasses in the world, a child who was no stranger to her people, asked if anyone could find hope. The people of parable and prophecy pondered what was hopeless and finally declared they no longer knew what hope was. The clocks, tick-a-ty tock, looked as though they might run out of time. Luckily, the ghosts in the memories of the old folk were listening, and said anyone can find hope in the stories: the big stories and the little ones in between.”

Here it was! The extract offered a concept that perfectly captured the “bigger” stories that established writers brought to the festival. But it also captured the “little” stories of the attendees. We took inspiration from Aboriginal dot paintings to create a visual metaphor for “the big stories and the little ones in between”.

The result

The brand campaign received rave reviews from participating novelists and attendees. The Festival generated $2.7 million in media coverage, 92 per cent of attendees rated their experience as good or excellent, and 92 per cent said they would return in 2018.

We’ll leave the final word to Alexis Wright: “All of these wonderful memories will stay with me forever, and I am very grateful to you and everyone involved for celebrating my book in this way. You have set a new very high standard, and raised the benchmark for writers festivals. And it was just enormous to turn around something else too, by celebrating Aboriginal authors in such a prominent way. I believe that this is most unusual for Brisbane, where I wonder if Aboriginal writers have ever before, been celebrated to this extent.”

Alexis Wright - Author

"All of these wonderful memories will stay with me forever, and I am very grateful to you and everyone involved for celebrating my book in this way. "