Brisbane Festival was established in 1996 as a Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council initiative to support arts in the city.

It continued as a biennial event until a 2009 merger with Riverfestival, resulting in the creation of one major annual arts festival that incorporates the iconic Sunsuper Riverfire. This makes Brisbane Festival Australia’s youngest major annual arts festival by at least a decade.

Artistic Directors Tony Gould and Lyndon Terracini led the Festival from 1996 to 2004 and from 2006 to 2009 respectively.

The current Artistic Director Noel Staunton stepped into the role in 2010. Under his tenure, Brisbane Festival has firmly established itself as a world class festival and Brisbane’s biggest cultural event. Mr Staunton's final year for Brisbane Festival is 2014.

David Berthold takes over as Artistic Director from 2015 to 2018.

Its presence dominates the city for three weeks in September and its line-up of classical and contemporary music, theatre, dance, comedy, opera, circus and major public events like Sunsuper Riverfire attracts an audience of more than one million people every year.

Brisbane Festival currently operates under the direction of the board of Major Brisbane Festivals Pty Ltd.