Storyfest has been on quite the journey through the past 30 years – from a singular annual event to a year-round calendar of programmes –, and there are no plans for the team to slow down. If anything, literature lovers are in for a treat in 2024, as Storyfest is expanding across Queensland!

Last year, Somerset Storyfest celebrated 30 years with the biggest writers’ festival yet. To mark the occasion, we sat down with CEO and Festival Director Andrea Lewis as she looked back on the first three decades of the literary organisation.

In that time, and thanks to the unwavering support of volunteers, sponsors, and donors, Storyfest has outgrown its origins.

“What we do on the Gold Coast is great, and we’re definitely going to keep supporting local, but there are opportunities to take Storyfest further afield,” said Andrea earlier this year, and that is exactly what 2024 will bring.

Storyfest first went out west in 2022

After many years of limiting the Storyfest Writers’ Festival to the Gold Coast, Andrea decided to expand to regional Queensland with the help of two Longreach locals. Storyfest Out West Ambassadors Rachelle Moore and Peta Bates saw first-hand the value of sending their students to the coast for the festival, but they both felt that more students – and their entire community – could benefit from Storyfest going to them. They took the bull by the horn in 2022, and helped us deliver a fantastic two-day writers’ festival in Longreach, followed by a three-day festival again in 2023. 

“Seeing how Storyfest impacted those students who went to the Gold Coast, we were so passionate about the opportunities that could be provided to our students, that we quickly became champions who wanted to be involved in this amazing opportunity,” said the pair.

Storyfest Out West
has been a great success, with some truly inspiring stories emerging. Rachelle and Peta share one such story below:

“A particularly inspiring story was from a secondary student, Dom, who attended a session of Joel McKerrow’s on day one and was so inspired that he went home and wrote some slam poetry that night. He came back on day two to perform it in front of a crowded room.

“Let me tell you – it blew us all away. Joel even took more time during his day to connect and nurture Dom’s curiosity and passion for learning. To see Dom be able to express himself through this medium of storytelling was certainly inspiring.”

Both years, students learned from the authors just as much as authors learned from them – after all, it was many people’s first time in outback Queensland too. 

Storyfest is expanding in 2024

Inspired by the success of Storyfest Out West, Andrea wanted to bring the magic of Storyfest and literature to even more children, and thus the ideas for Storyfest South West and Storyfest Central Queensland were born.

2024 will be Storyfest’s biggest year yet, with an unprecedented four festivals throughout the year: one on the Gold Coast, one in Longreach, another in Emerald, and the last in Saint George.

The aim of these festivals is to expand on Storyfest’s mission and to bring a love of storytelling to rural areas of Queensland. We are acutely aware of the significance of literary programmes in regional Australia, and are working hard to bring the benefits of books to as many regional spots as possible.

“We're excited by the challenge ahead to deliver three festivals, in three weeks, in three regional towns in 2024. The opportunity to expand our programmes to reach children in rural areas, fostering connections with authors, books, and storytellers, has long been a goal for Storyfest. Witnessing it come to fruition is truly rewarding,” said Andrea.

The past few decades have seen numerous research
done on and around the levels of education and, within that, literary comprehension in rural versus metro Australia. While these findings are showing slight improvements over the years, there is still a great divide between the reading and writing skills of those children studying in regional and urban areas.

Not only does this have a detrimental effect on the potential career opportunities and progression of people growing up rurally, but more importantly, low literacy levels often result in poor health outcomes long-term, including higher rates of hospitalisation and more frequent medical visits.

Literature goes regional

To play our part in setting up stronger literary structures in the long run, we are bringing the famous Storyfest Writers’ Festival to two new locations in 2024, alongside the original Gold Coast and the more recent Longreach locations.

Each three-day festival will deliver a series of literary experiences along with workshops and opportunities for budding readers and writers alike, bringing you the best children’s authors and the newest books.

Festival highlights will include a Literary Lunch, a lively Prologue Party, and the opportunity for attendees to explore the bookshop and get their books signed by their favourite authors.

All in all, each festival promises to bring a love of storytelling to a regional town that will benefit from new literary aspirations amongst its youngest.

Nex stop – the rest of Australia!

Find out more about how you can support us in our mission to spread the Storyfest love here!