On the Couch with Sarah Runcie

Brisbane-Writers-Festival-Sarah-RuncieWho is Sarah Runcie?
The Chief Executive Officer of the Brisbane Writers Festival, mother to a red-headed, and occasionally red-tempered, nine-year old, a garden enthusiast, an avid reader and eldest daughter of four.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I would love to be a cellist. I studied piano and cello in my adolescence. I would have to say I liked the idea of playing cello more than the reality of hours of practice.

Who inspires you and why?
I’ve been lucky enough to know and work with many inspiring people but the people who inspired me first and foremost are my parents. My father, Dr Neil Runcie, has been an advocate for the print disabled, the environment, and community radio. He worked with Jack Mundey on the green ban for Centennial Park. He has championed the preservation of urban green space over developer greed time and again. From him I learnt a sense of civic duty. And that civic duty never stops. My mother, Dr Catherine Runcie, was senior lecturer in English at the University of Sydney. There are very many things I have learnt from my mother but one that has sustained me is a love of great literature.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Redistribute wealth.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
My favourite destination is holiday. Just any holiday. With my daughter. Having said that, the last holiday I had was three weeks in Japan. It was one of the most interesting and enjoyable holidays I have had. The Japanese culture of care and consideration is a remarkable thing to behold. And Japanese literature, from Murasaki to Murakami, is just wonderous.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
In Sydney I love to take people to Parsley Bay. It is a secret little bit of paradise. Or anywhere along the harbour.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve got a couple of books on the go but I have just started reading Sasha Sagan’s For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in our Unlikely World. She makes for delightful company. And her recent discussion with Michaela Kalowski for BWF’s international writer series is a little gem.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m on a bit of a jazz jag at the moment. I am listening to Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. I have also been listening to Bach’s cello suites and Gould’s Goldberg variations. Because of my daughter, Taylor Swift. Every time we are in the car. Every time. I usually clean the house to a medley of Pet Shop Boys, Sigala and just stuff with a house beat. I can totally recommend Bjork’s Army of Me for cleaning bathroom grout. Or my daughter’s bedroom (a Sisyphysian task).

Happiness is?
Gardening and a glass of champagne on a sunny, windy, beautiful day.

What does the future hold for you?
A move to Brisbane to take up my new role and, I hope, a load of wonderful online and live writers festival events. And because I am planning to road trip to Brisbane with my daughter, Taylor Swift. A lot. Like really a lot.

Sarah is the Chief Executive Officer of the Brisbane Writers Festival – which continues to present international and Australian artists online throughout 2020 while programming a stellar line-up for its re-scheduled Festival in May 2021. For more information, visit: www.bwf.org.au for details.

Image: Sarah Runcie – courtesy of Brisbane Writers Festival