History of Brisbane Festival
Brisbane Festival 1996-2010
Brisbane Festival is one of Australia’s premier festivals and Brisbane's annual cultural event.
Brisbane Festival was developed by the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council in 1996 as an initiative to foster the arts.
The Festival evolved from Brisbane’s Warana Festival, first held in 1961. Warana, meaning blue skies, was the beginning of Arts Festivals in Queensland. In these early festival days, a trip to the Queensland ballet cost 10 shillings, the Grand Parade of floats down the city streets was a major event and the festival was a celebration of Spring and the city’s cultural activities. The theme of the Warana Festival was "entertainment for the people, by the people". Over the years regular Warana features varied, but included a drama festival and eisteddfod, a writers' week, a George Street Colonial Fair, a Miss Warana Pageant and various religious, sporting and other outdoors activities.
Brisbane Festival was held as a biennial festival from 1996 to 2008 and an annual festival from 2009. Tony Gould was the Artistic Director from 1996-2004 and Lyndon Terracini was the Artistic Director from 2006-2009. In 2010, Noel Staunton was appointed as the Artistic Director.
In 2009, Brisbane Festival combined with the former Riverfestival to make it Brisbane’s annual festival.
Brisbane Festival currently operates under the direction of the board of Major Brisbane Festivals Pty Ltd.
Riverfestival was developed by Brisbane City Council in 1996 as an initiative for a river-based celebration combined with community engagement.
Following a similar pattern to other urbanised river environments around the world, Brisbane had historically turned its back on the river and utilised it primarily as a drain, sewer and gravel mine. However following the successful 1988 World Expo held at South Bank along the Brisbane River and the establishment of a commuter river ferry service, thinking shifted and the idea of a festival emerged.
Riverfestival was first staged in 1996 and 1997 as ‘Down by the River’ and in 1998 as ‘Brisbane River Festival’. Two of the Festival’s subsequent signature events were established in 1998 - the International Riversymposium, an international conference on river management and Riverfire, South East Queensland’s largest fireworks display.
In 1999, the Festival was renamed Riverfestival and staged over ten days annually until 2008. The Festival had four festival directors, John Aitken, Suzannah Conway, Jonathan Parsons and Lyndon Terracini.
From 2009, the Festival combined with the new annual Brisbane Festival.