Festival Profile: Steve Grimwade

25 July 2012 | 4:30 am | Giuliano Ferla

Five minutes with Steve Grimwade.

This is Steve Grimwade's final year as director of the Melbourne Writers Festival. Is it a sad goodbye? “Hell yeah!” he says. With the festival beginning on 23 August, and his workplace getting busier in preparation, he remembers quite precisely just where his passion for literature began. “It began, in all places, at the Banff Arts Centre in 1994, where I saw Exene Cervenka from the punk band X, the Minister of Information [Professor Griff] from Public Enemy and another spoken word performer, and it blew my head off. I then came back to Australia... and from there it just slowly unfolded. I ran events, I got involved in magazines, I got involved in organisations. And basically my story is one of a slow but steady upward climb.”

Slow and steady with years of hard work. Grimwade rose through the ranks of Express Media, eventually becoming Director. He hosted a radio show on Melbourne's RRR. He ran the Emerging Writers' Festival. When the opportunity arose to apply for the job as Director of the Melbourne Writers Festival, Grimwade was compelled. “I had to do it,” he says. “I wanted to have the chance to shape it into something that I'd love and I've done exactly that.” Despite the increase in attendance and revenue, Grimwade's proudest achievement has been in opening the festival up to broader spheres of literature. “I'm not just interested in novels and poetry,” he explains, “I'm also interested in TV writing and the book as an art object and theatre and zines and songwriters.” And this year's guests at MWF prove just that, with a series of events from The New Yorker magazine, and an opening keynote address from actor/writer/director Simon Callow, to name just two. With his tenure as director of the festival running up, the question hangs, where to now? “I still want to be in a position which connects audiences and artists. I want to be a part of change and contribute to the culture I live in. Exactly how, I don't know. But we'll find out soon, I hope,” he adds, with an optimistic laugh.

Melbourne Writers Festival runs from 23 August to 2 September, full program now available.