Meet Brett Howe. Brett will be one of the busiest Dads in South-East Queensland this month as he juggles family, fatherhood and being director of the biggest annual kiddie fun fest – Out of the Box.
Tell us about your role with Out of the Box
My role is festival director for the 2016 Out of the Box Festival (OOTB). I am responsible for the overall direction and execution of the festival from creative choices across shows, design and collateral to staffing, sales, partnerships and sponsorship and a host of other jobs that ensure the festival is a rich, integrated and considered experience. But to be honest, I am able to draw on the enormous experience of the QPAC chief executive and executive team, on the expertise of my colleagues at QPAC, the energy of the festival team and some of the best artists across the world to drive most of these elements.
What do you do for work/business outside OOTB season? What is your business background?
When I am not working on OOTB, my role is as the executive producer of Communities and Family at QPAC. I have come to this role through a range of different positions in the arts, most recently as the general manager of Queensland’s Circa Contemporary Circus. These roles have seen me negotiating contracts, partnerships and staffing across international partners, multiple government agencies and philanthropic and commercial partners – sometimes all concurrently. As in any business, making a performing arts endeavour is tricky work and having a solid and considered business approach to the creation of performance is crucial to its success.
In your opinion, what’s so special about OOTB?
For me, what sits this experience apart from any other, is the fact that we are bringing our youngest citizens into a place where they get to engage in and understand the world around them, and their place in it. They can come to recognise how they fit in the world, and how they feel about the things in it that might impact them and through the festival, have a voice in what they think about this. We place children in the centre of the experience and we ensure that the experience is robust, educational, entertaining and provocative. We provide stimulus and reflection for our children and provoke the wonders that may lie ahead of them. That is a very special thing – seeing the hearts, minds and hopes of thousands of children explode into a world of excitement and possibility.
Tell us about your family – how many kids do you have, their ages, etc?
I have two boys. My eldest will turn 6 in the middle of the festival and my youngest will turn 2 in July. We play – a lot. Just this weekend we setup a blanket fort in the loungeroom and my boys took me on a tour of their new space station complete with a full defence system, alien translation devices and teleporters. The space station was then invaded by a horde of stuffed animals intent on stealing the device of true power – the remote control. That was fun, and I learnt as much from my boys about playing as they did in securing sheets to furniture without getting in trouble from mum.
Do your kids have any input in OOTB? What shows are they looking forward to most this season?
My children are a huge inspiration to my work, but so are the hundreds of children we work with prior to the festival in shaping and programming it. It is crucial to ensure we are keeping children’s ideas and views firmly in mind when our intention is to create experiences especially for them. But the biggest thing I have learnt from these children is that we grow out of childhood, and we lose something in that growth that maybe we should hold onto. Think about creativity, imagination, disruption and unconditional love. Children can teach us a thing or two about this. As we grow up we lose sight of the value of these things and that children have an expertise in this space that we can all learn from. This is the only way that I can come to terms with adult colouring-in books. My boys are lucky enough to get a full experience of the festival and my eldest is particularly interested in seeing Creature as it is based on Dot and the Kangaroo which he is loving reading at the moment. He keeps asking me how the acrobatics and aerials will tell the story, and trying to figure out how the big interactive screen might reveal or unfold the scenes and characters that Dot encounters.
What time does a typical day start and end for you?
I am up around 6.30am with the boys and tend to go to bed around midnight each night. If I can get a nap on the weekends that is sooooooo the best.
What issues are you dealing with at home with your kids right now?
We are working through the end of overnight nappies for my eldest. He is doing really well, but some weeks we are washing sheets and pyjamas every night and I swear the house smells like a laundromat.
Do you have any unusual hobbies?
I am a Star Wars tragic and have a number of collections that need regular support and attention. This may have rubbed off onto the boys as well. I also play Dungeons and Dragons every week. It is great fun to get together with friends (yes – in person), imagine new and fantastical scenarios and play a character that could overcome the challenges these scenarios present. Yep – I have a huge geek streak… Hello ladies!
What’s the one thing that people won’t already know about you?
I had closed heart surgery when I was in my early 20s and now I don’t have a lining around my heart (its called the pericardium). Doctors tell me that without the lining I can’t kickbox or run a marathon as my heart could get bruised. I was very relieved to be able to remove those two activities from my life under doctors’ orders!
What are your three favourite cafes/restaurants across South-East QLD for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
My wife and I love to go to Cinco in Camp Hill for a more refined evening meal. Rather than going out for lunch we love to head to Rock and Roll Bakery and grab some fresh bread, cheeses, cured meats, olives and dips and have a picnic – even if it is in the loungeroom at home. Ave Cucina is a lovely local café that has some wonderful food and a delicious breakfast menu. It has a heavy Mediterranean feel to the menu which is the perfect kick off to a lazy weekend.
Can you share any tips on finding the right work/life balance?
I don’t know that there is a balance, but more of a constant juggle of the imbalance. Sometimes work needs more attention, sometimes the children do, sometime the broader family does and sometimes I just need to focus on me (euuugh, did I say that?). It is about being passionate about all the things you do, being clear with both work and family (or is that life?), about your priorities and constantly updating them as these shift, and trying your best to keep everything moderated.
How do you stay motivated in your career?
Are you kidding?! I have one of the best jobs I can think of! I work with excellent and passionate people who are all interested in doing good in the world and at the end of the day we help create happy moments in people’s lives. And I get to work with kids, but also with adults who behave like kids. My job is based in play. We put on plays. Musicians play music. Play is at the heart of all that we do. Seriously, I don’t have any issues with motivation!