QLA – Queensland Literary Awards
Last night I shot the 2012 Queensland Literary Awards at the State Library of QLD Auditorium. I shoot a few events every year and I don’t often write about them. Mostly because they follow a very similar formula; people arrive, get given name badges so the awkward ‘I can’t remember your name so would rather you think I’m rude for not introducing you to my partner than admit I forgot your name’ dance is avoided. Politicians give speeches, God is thanked (when speeches end) and drinking begins.
Mostly, these things are very contained, polite affairs. But the QLA’s were different. Strikingly so.
Richard Fidler stepped onto the stage as emcee and self-proclaimed civilian, representing no agency or organisation. Tellingly, the Australian Republican Movement could not be contacted for comment today. He began by reassuring the audience that they had, singlehandedly, averted a Spanish style economic crisis by sacrificing the $247,000 back into the state’s coffers. We, the crowd felt worthy, and proud.
Richard Fidler and Dr Stuart Glover looking… mysterious and proud at the QLA’s 2012
The QLA Chair, Dr Stuart Glover, then reassured us that we were the most attractive and insightful literary audience ever assembled, and began weaving a story of hard won battles against injustice, literary vacuums and defunding. Whose central character was a little boy who grew up to become the King of QLD Literature. We heard how there were no words, no language, nothing of interest to speak of before he put pen to paper in QLD. This was the story of Matthew Condon; The Condiniad.
Once the raging urge for folklore and storytelling was sated among the audience we were left licking our lips and rubbing our bellies in satisfaction. We waited to see what could happen next because this wasn’t following the usual polite clap-a-thon we’d all been to many times before.
Awards were announced and the prizes were given. The prize sculptures were donated by Stefan of the hairdressing fame. Richard mentioned that anyone who didn’t know Stefan is not from QLD.
And has no hair.
Other prizes were very personal, like a UQ poetry troupe who busked for three days after hearing of the defunding, and donated their earnings to the winning Emerging QLD Author in this special take home (collector’s edition) jar.
In one of the best absentee acceptance speeches ever, childrens novelist Briony Steward treated us to this.
There were many incredible stories given by the winning authors. But the one thing all of them communicated was that winning meant more this year. Because it came directly from within a community mature enough to recognise and understand its own value. It wasn’t an ‘up yours’ to anyone, it was a community that wanted to celebrate its achievements.
Like the David Unaipon Award that has seen over 20 previously unpublished indigenous authors get published. Legacies like that deserve to be preserved.