Lyndon Megarrity reviews 'We’ll Show the World: Expo 88' by Jackie Ryan

Born in 1825, Brisbane is an elderly lady who has been to a surprising number of ‘coming of age’ balls. Numerous historians, officials, speechmakers, and journalists for several decades have implied that Brisbane (as of 1982, 1988, or whenever) is now not only the belle of the ball, but she has thrown out all reminders of her daggy, embarrassing, and sinister past and is now a sophisticated city much like all the others. The end of the convict era (1842), the mass presence of allied troops during World War II, the 1982 Commonwealth Games, and the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art (2006) have all been used as symbols of a Brisbane shedding the old Queensland so as to blossom into the new one. Another popular candidate for Brisbane’s ‘coming of age’ is its successful hosting of World Expo 88, an international exposition that brought good publicity to the state of Queensland and was enjoyed and ‘owned’ by the people of Brisbane. Thirty years after the event, Jackie Ryan’s We’ll Show the World is a fascinating and well-researched account of Expo 88, admirably broad in its scope, although somewhat limited by its ‘coming of age’ narrative.

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