Anywhere Festival – Paul Osuch On Bringing Small Shows And Big Memories To Brisbane

Tim is a Brisbane-based writer who loves noisy music, gorgeous pop, weird films, and ice cream.

At Anywhere Festival’s West End office in Brisbane, Founder and CEO Paul Osuch recalls one of the many shows that have moved him during the festival’s 13 years.

“I remember [Brad Daniels and Edge Improv] did one show that I would say had the most heartfelt comments come back to me about,” he says. “He did this show at St Vincent’s Hospital in Kangaroo Point. The whole concept was the audience provided the ideas for this character, and the improvisors went through all the stages from their birth and all the way through their life.

“They created this character based on a few different suggestions that I got invested in, and when they died at the end of it, I felt sad. I thought it was one of the most moving improv shows I’ve seen.”

Paul Anywhere Fest 2024
Paul Osuch

Since its founding in 2011, Paul and Anywhere Festival have seen a whole host of work created by Brisbane-based performing artists, and he can recall so many of them. It’s not just the work being staged that he remembers, but also the unusual locations they were staged.

The Anywhere Festival’s proposal is that artists can be a part of the programme as long as it’s performed anywhere but a theatre. This challenge has led to some incredible spaces becoming venues: magic in a warehouse; murder mysteries in bowls clubs; and sea shanties in underground reservoirs. This year, Anywhere Festival brings 60 productions to 35 different locations across Brisbane.


The festival began when Paul returned to Brisbane in 2010, having worked as a writer, producer, and director overseas in England.

“It came out of a very Brisbane set of circumstances,” he says. “When I came back from London in 2010 and looked into opening a theatre space, the regulations were really awful for starting up a performance space. But most of the stuff that I had worked on over the past few years in London were site-specific – they weren’t in an actual theatre. There aren’t that many theatres in Brisbane, so I thought, ‘Why don’t we do a festival that doesn’t use any of them at all?’”

The 2024 edition of Anywhere Festival sees artists continue to explore more unusual spaces for their performances, exciting Paul with the way they push the festival’s core idea.

“We’ve got this one circus show that’s doing a late-night show in a pole dancing gym in the city called ‘Aerialicious’,” he says. “And Improv Queensland have a show called ‘A Lust Of Elves And Magic’. This show is taking the improv idea and mixed it with a saucy-romantic-Dungeons-And-Dragons idea, and we’ve found this venue that’s now called The Raven in West End.

“They’ve got this cellar and it’s probably one of the oldest ones since English settlement, at least. There’s all this fantastic old-school brickwork that you don’t see much of in Brisbane. From what I know, the building it was in used to be the West End Arts Club, I’m talking 100 years ago, and now it’s a bar.”

Whistling Past The Graveyard
'Whistling Past The Graveyard'

This year’s festival will also see the return of popular shows from last year’s programme. This includes musical performances from K Mak and Angel Strings at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, and the cabaret ‘Whistling Past The Graveyard’.

“The idea of ’Whistling Past The Graveyard’ is that it’s a cabaret – there’s music, there’s storytelling – and it’s in the South Brisbane Cemetery in Dutton Park. People can go there and sit, and the performers draw on some of the stories that they’ve researched from some of the graves and the people who were buried there. People really raved about it last year, and I think that it will be very popular this year as well.”

While previous years have seen programmes dominated by cabaret, improv, and theatre, Paul has found that this year’s edition has seen an increase in musical performances.

“What we’ve found is that because there’s the issues with [music venues struggling], there are quite a number of established musos that are in the programme who’ve said it’s a real struggle to find something that is working in those music venues. So, they’re looking for a different way.

The Ladysinger Record Parlour
'The Ladysinger's Record Parlour'

“We’ve got things from the jazz guitarist Brandon Lee who is doing a number of different house concerts as well as something at the Holy Trinity Church in the Valley. There’s the Acoustic Guitar Trio and Greg McInnes who are performing in the small space in Arcana. Anje West, who is usually doing things with the group The View From Madeleine’s Couch, this time she is doing her own show called ‘The Ladysinger’s Record Parlour’ of her favourite influences, and those are going to be in her house.”

As the current cost of living crises continues, the live entertainment sector has taken a massive hit. Audiences don’t have the budget for regular attendance anymore, instead saving for special occasions, leading to venues struggling to survive or even having to ultimately close. However, due to the unique locations, smaller budgets, and DIY approach, Anywhere Festival has a number of affordable shows that won’t break the bank.

“By doing shows in spaces like residential homes and spaces away from the city, it removes a lot of the costs audiences tend to have around going to a show,” Paul says.

“This is a way that artists can make money from their art, and this is a way it can be done while audiences are like, ‘This is great! I get to be here with 30 or 40 people in this intimate experience where I feel like I’m part of the whole thing’. I think that’s probably why we're still here.”

Anywhere Festival Brisbane is on from 19 July-4 August.

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