Storyfest as we know it today started out as the Somerset Celebration of Literature in 1993, founded by Gold Coasters who believed that an annual literary festival would benefit not only the students of Somerset College, but the wider Gold Coast community too. The first festival was such a success that Somerset Celebration of Literature became an annual occasion set on the grounds of Somerset College.

From the beginning, this literary venture was supported by the College and its associated entities, one of which is the Somerset Alumni Association. We chatted with Somerset Alumni Association Committee President Nick Richards about the role of the association today.

Storyfest: Can you tell us a little bit about your career and what led you to become the President of the Association Committee?

Nick Richards: I graduated from Somerset College in 2003. I went to university and did banking and finance, eventually getting a Masters in Commerce. I was in corporate banking for five years before realising that I hated corporate banking. [laughs] It's not very exciting, very much not like The Wolf of Wall Street, like I was led to believe. After leaving, I got into entrepreneurship, buying and selling businesses.

Then five years ago, I was approached by the Alumni Association – which I didn’t even know existed at that point! They asked if I wanted to join the committee as they were looking for members, and I joined because I thought, ‘hey, here’s a great community, let’s see what we can make of it.’ That was five years ago – since then, I have become president and seen so many amazing people join the alumni. People, like me, who had no idea that it was even a thing.

We have this huge pool of talent and interesting people, but we're not really leveraging them. For example, after leaving school, I had no idea the alumni existed for 15 years. My goal with being the president of the alumni is to get front-of-mind for current and former students, and to start building a huge community.

S: What is the connection between the Alumni Association and the Storyfest of today?

NR: Storyfest has a huge reputation amongst students and external people alike. Every single alumni and every single Somerset student that I've spoken to has a story about Storyfest: how they've met people there that have truly inspired them. It’s no surprise then that the alumni would want to stand behind such a great cause, and help even more kids experience the magic of stories.

Storyfest – or back when it was called Somerset Celebration of Literature – is something we've always supported because we feel like it has benefits for students and alumni alike. It's just such a blast!

Currently, the Alumni Association sponsors the Long Table Dinner, which has been renamed The Craig Bassingthwaighte Long Table after the current Somerset College Headmaster, who is retiring this year. We are excited to honour him and give him a proper send-off. We will also use this event as a chance to bring alumni in to help reconnect with the school and reconnect with the Somerset community, which has been a great way to showcase the breadth of networking opportunities to new members.

S: What do you think the effects of Storyfest are on the students?

NR: There's not a single person I could name who has been to Somerset or dealt with Somerset that hasn't been influenced by Storyfest in some way. And that's just the student and alumni population. That's not even the greater community. Every single person has a story about meeting an author or learning something through Storyfest, even if they were not particularly interested in literature or writing.

I can remember meeting Nick Earls and Matthew Riley, and that was in 2002! I still remember meeting them and buying their books – when I see their names in bookstores, I’m reminded of my time at the festival. There's just something very, very cool about that.

It's great to see. I think writers are a subset of creatives that aren't given the rock star treatment like other creatives are, you know? If you think about musicians or actors, they're treated very differently from authors. I think that's unfair because ultimately, authors and writing are the people that drive a lot of commentary in society and shape a lot of lives. So it's great to see them put on the main stage like rock stars.

S: What about you? What else are you working on?

NR: I have a media startup, I have an e-commerce startup, and I run a not-for-profit martial arts school as a hobby.

S: You have a lot on. How do you find that?

NR: I've always worked on lots of projects at once. I've always struggled to just work on a single thing, even back at school. It's natural for me to have lots going on. But it's swings and roundabouts, right? Luckily, the highs are better than the lows overall.

S: As a former Somerset student and current alumni committee member, what would your advice be to current or former Somerset students?

NR: The Alumni Association is here as a resource and a community for former and current students. So if you are a former student, you're actually a member, whether you like it or not. [laughs]

But there's this great community, and we'd love to have you be involved. For current students, when you're thinking about your career and thinking about what you want to do after school, the alumni is always available. If you want to chat to someone in a career line that you’re interested in but you don't know if it’d actually suit you, you can reach out to the alumni, and they can put you in touch with someone in that career. You have a coffee with them, you ask your questions. I wish I had that when I was 15.

This is where the Alumni Association is similar to Storyfest. It’s about showing kids different career paths and options, and giving them the opportunity to hear about it from the right people first-hand.

S: That’s wonderful. Now, last question: if you had to describe Storyfest in three words, what would they be?

NR: Fun, challenging, and priceless.

To find out more about the Somerset Alumni Association, click here!