who we are, where we’ve come from, where we’re going …

The Brotherhood of the Wordless (BOW) is a group of disabled writers who meet regularly at the Sandgate Community Centre to write, share their experiences and work on upcoming creative projects.

The writers all have problems connected to Autism, Down syndrome and other disabilities which preclude speech. All are dependent on Facilitated Communication (FC), which requires a facilitator to support  their wrists and speak out their words, which are pointed out,  letter by letter, on a keyboard.

The Brotherhood of the Wordless evolved from a similar group  which began in 1995 known as the  Voiceless Wonders. At the time,  Alice Owen was working as a  speech pathologist with the Department of Families and Disabilities who had encouraged its workers to get involved in activities for the disabled. Alice met with members of the group and their facilitators every week in a Sandgate cafe to write and communicate together. Alice was also able to train others in the techniques of Facilitated Communication. However in 2003 the group was forced to cease functioning due to loss of Department support.

Fortunately a group of Sandgate poets (Poets in the Park – started by Joan Beddoe) was producing an illustrated anthology, Images of Bramble Bay. Writing workshops were part of the project, and when Alice attended these with three members of Voiceless Wonders, their works were included in the anthology. Proceeds from the sale of the book were then devoted to writing activities for people using Facilitated Communication.

Then in 2004 Queensland writer and filmmaker, Krissy Kneen, conducted three writing workshops and it was from these that the Brotherhood of the Wordless was formed. Ever since, the Brotherhood has continued to flourish and grow in its artistic endeavours.

The following are some of their achievements over the years:

In 2005 the group received an Arts Council grant to produce a documentary, assisted by Krissy Kneen and Anthony Mullins. It was officially launched at the Powerhouse in Brisbane.

Some of the group’s work was used to collaboratively produce a song with Melbourne band, the Bi-Polar Bears and radio host Paul Bodington recorded a segment for Radio National

BOW produced an anthology and DVD Tapping on the Heart of the World with funding from the Lions Club of Bramble Bay

In November 2008 the group performed in their own musical called DREEMZ at QUT’s Carseldine theatre. All 12 members wrote the material and appeared on stage

Throughout 2009 the group worked regularly with performance poet ‘Ghostboy’ to write material for their next performance – ‘Air for the Birds’. This took place at the State Library in January 2010, alongside several other performance poets and musicians.

In August 2010 the group performed in a second ‘Air For the Birds’ show at the Queensland Poetry Festival at the Judith Wright Centre.

In April 2011 the group performed their new show ‘Big Thoughts fom the Frightened Well’ at the State Library of Qld.

A Cabaret Show at Sandgate Town Hall

The Brotherhood of the Wordless now meets on the third Wednesday of the month at the Sandgate Community Centre, with participants coming from as far afield as Goodna and the Sunshine Coast. It is probably the only group of its kind in Australia and the benefits for its members are far reaching.

Alice Owen and Jan Goldsmith are the current co-ordinators of the group, as Joan Beddoe has retired.

Until recently David Stavenger, Director QPF, has been the group’s artistic mentor.

For more information see The Brotherhood of the Wordless