March 2024

Back to Issue 15

Phil Brown in Conversation with Rosanna E. Licari

Phil Brown


Phil, you are the Editor of InReview Qld. Can you tell us a bit about InReview?

InReview is published by The Australian Reviewers and Critics Fund, a not for profit dedicated to the arts and run under the auspices of Solstice Media, a growing media company with online and print publications. The Queensland version launched in 2023 and I am the editor and we aim to fill in the gap (the huge gap) left by the mainstream press largely abandoning the arts. The Adelaide version started first some years ago and has been very popular.

There is a dearth of mainstream arts coverage in Queensland and we aim to change that. In fact, we are changing week to week with our coverage right across the arts across the state. I have a little band of expert writers contributing and I write quite a bit too. I can’t help myself!

We are philanthropically funded so every little bit helps and there is a donation tab on the website for generous souls who want to help us continue our coverage. 


How did you find your way into the world of arts editing? Can you share a bit about the journey that led you to where you are today?

Well, it’s a long journey which really began when I worked as a young journo at The Morning Bulletin in Rockhampton. They had the newly opened Pilbeam Theatre and, since I had long hair and wore John Lennon glasses, I was obviously going to cover the arts. I cut my teeth reporting on the arts and other things in Rockhampton and during a long career in journalism the arts and entertainment have always been my strong suit. Prior to my current position I was, for many years, Arts Editor of TheCourier-Mail a job which, coincidentally, my wife also did more than a decade ago.

The arts and literature are subjects I have written about throughout my career and I have always written poetry along the way (I have published two slim volumes) and other things including several books of memoir, the last being The Kowloon Kid (Transit Lounge) which was published in 2019.


Thinking back to when you started, what qualifications and skills do you think are essential for someone eyeing a career in this field? How did you hone these as your career progressed?

Firstly, you have to be interested. I have always been interested in the arts, broadly speaking. That’s the basic qualification. Then reading and cinemagoing and theatregoing are things you should do. And read journals and all publications about the arts and keep a journal to hone your skills. I honed my skills by learning as I went, writing about things I didn’t know much about and educating myself bit by bit. It’s a lifetime’s work really. Having academic qualifications would help but are not necessary.


On the positive side, what moments or aspects of being an arts editor do you find most fulfilling? Are there any particular experiences that stand out?

One of the perks of the job is meeting amazing people from Barry Humphries to Willem Dafoe or Peter Carey, John Cleese and Jeffrey Smart. That has been a highlight. To be singled out for a mention by Sir Les Patterson was both a blessing and a curse! Each year brings its own highlights and for me recently attending Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Brisbane was a treat. In recent years classical music and opera have been major interests. There are so many highlights. Writing about the arts has given me entrée to meeting the most amazing people. But I apply the same interview principles to actors just starting out. I love to find out what makes creatives tick.   


We all face challenges in our jobs. What do you consider to be the main downsides of the job? How do you tackle this and keep things moving forward?

I wouldn’t say it’s a downside but there are times when you find yourself out at the theatre almost every night. If you’re not careful. Nowadays I try to curate my attendance a bit more. One of the hardest things for me is sitting through a musical and musicals are so popular now. I am missing the gene required to enjoy a musical. Sue me. I find writing about what interests me is the best way to go.  


The arts and media landscape are always evolving. How do you stay in the loop with industry trends and changes? Was there a time when there was a significant shift in the arts scene and you had to adapt?

One just has to keep across the various media outlets and listen to Radio National and subscribe to arts journals and read widely to keep up. Subscribe to get press releases by Arts Ministers and just keep an eye on any changing trends. ABC radio and television are good sources for information on the arts.

It’s an evolving landscape. The most dramatic event in the arts in recent years was the pandemic which decimated the arts. Thankfully the world has bounced back from that but it was a serious blow to artists all around the world.


You also are a poet and writer. Is there something you are working on at the moment?

Oh, I’m always working on something! I am planning a new memoir at the moment about the agony and ecstasy of being a poet. I also have a few poems on the boil. One is about meeting Joseph Stalin in Red Square in Moscow in 2019. Well, he said he was Joseph Stalin! I have just written a small poem about my back hedge too if that’s of interest. I have written a few poems since Christmas including one about the Swiss-French poet Blaise Cendrars. I am also planning a poem about the beauty of my favourite car park.



Phil Brown is the Editor of InReview Queensland.