Monday, December 30, 2013

New England Writers - Edwin Wilson

I love the interconnections I find through my various on-line activities. Judy Cassab self portrait This is a self-portrait by Judy Cassab. A friend is reading her letters at the moment, re-sparking my interest.

I first came across Judy Cassab when I was quite young, twenty two in fact. Oh dear, that seems a long time ago. A friend invited me to a showing by Channy (Chandler) Coventry held in his Sydney motel room.  This included a Cassab. Channy had yet to leave the property outside Armidale to set up his gallery, but he was already addicted to art.

Judy Cassab was not a New England artist. However, in the exchange that followed my first reference to her, Judith Ross Smith pointed out that Judy Cassab had done a portrait of husband Paul Lamb,

I had forgotten that, and decided to search to try to find a copy of the painting, I could not. Instead, I found another New England writer, poet Edwin Wilson. Edwin came up because he went to Armidale Teachers' College and was taught by Paul.

I hadn't heard of Edwin. Now I have! He is a Northern Rivers' poet, one who has retained his links despite the need to move. Here I just want to record the links to two of his books. They are:

I am very much into New England writing at present. I am trying to show both the depth and the way our writers illustrate the different aspects of New England experience. If we don't tell other people about our writing, how do we expect them to realise the unique New England elements? How will we recognise this ourselves? 

I will return to Edwin at a later point. Now, I just want to get the links down.      

Friday, December 20, 2013

The creative industries - Sydney 86.3% vs the entire North 7.2%

As part of my work reviewing the draft NSW arts and cultural strategy, I looked at a document entitled NSW creative industries profile prepared by NSW Trade & Investment. The following table provides a summary of NSW regional creative industries (CI) employment by New England region. Sydney numbers are included as a benchmark. Comments follow the table.

Region Total CI Share of NSW % CI share of total employment % Concentration change % pts Growth 2006-2011
Sydney 127,421 86.3 6.2 0.6 20.'5
Hunter 5,063 3.4 1.8 0.0 11.7
Richmond-Tweed 2,349 1.6 2.6 0.1 10.3
Mid-North Coast 1,882 1.3 1.7 0.0 8.5
Northern 893 0.6 1.2 -0.1 -5.3
North-Western 488 0.3 1.0 -0.2 -12.7

Now there are some definition problems with the numbers, but it's still not a pretty picture. The whole North has just 7.2% of the CI workforce as compared to Sydney's 86.3%, while inland New England appears to be going backward at a frightening rate. Not nice. 


This document, describes Newcastle as a satellite of Sydney. Again, not nice!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Growing New England - how do we overcome local town myopia?

At the moment, I am working on a response to the Sydney Government's draft arts and cultural strategy for NSW. Thinking about access to art and culture, I realised a funny thing about New England's urban dwellers. They are so used to shorter distances that they are wonP1010016't travel unless it's a formal journey.

This is another shot of Uralla's main street. Pretty isn't it?

Uralla lies twenty minutes drive time south of Armidale. Now in Sydney where I am presently living in exile, no body would blink an eye at the thought of travelling thirty minutes one way for coffee, an hour just to go to a function, over an hour to work or to take the kids to sport, three hours to visit another place for the weekend. Yet when your normal driving time around town is less than ten minutes, twenty minutes along a main highway seems such a long way!

It's dumb really, and we lose so much. If more New Englanders consciously explored their own immediate area, then this would increase the marketplace for a whole variety of activities while also adding fun to to life.    

At present, the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) is presenting a number of exhibitions including Herbert Badham's Observing the Everyday. I described this in A morning at NERAM - Flora, Cobcroft and Badham's Observing the Everyday.

Badham was a realist painter of social urban life, renowned for his scenes of Sydney. The exhibition concentrates on the everyday in Sydney mainly during the 1930s, combining Badham with other paintings from the NERAM collection on the same theme. This is a large high quality exhibition that has the potential to attract visitors from a wide area including Sydney. Sadly, NERAM has neither the money for wider promotion, nor for the catalogue that would give visitors the tangible memory of their visit.

If New Englanders could overcome their local myopia, then the Badham exhibition could draw effectively from all those within a two to three hour drive of Armidale. If Armidale people were more prepared to travel and could lift their eyes above the bounds set by the city's urban boundaries, then they could enjoy the events, activities and attractions offered by other centres.

This simple shift in perceptions could actually transform the economics of local activities, allowing for growth beyond the scale dictated by local populations.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oops - Uralla street art

P1010022 2

The Uralla main street has become an attractive place with its mix of buildings now with an arts and cultural focus.

I saw this piece while drinking coffee across the road and wandered across to take a photo.    

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Raymond Terrace - Sketchley Pioneer Cottage & Museum

Today's main post elsewhere focuses on Raymond Terrace and the making of a film - Australian life - transforming Raymond Terrace to Wirrawee.

At Raymond Terrace, we stopped outside the Sketchley Pioneer Cottage and Museum. P1000977

. The museum was shut, something else to see at another point, but we sat in the shade eating cheese and pate looking at the museum. It was very pleasant. 

Sunday, December 08, 2013

St John's Church at Stroud

This is the inside of the of St John's Church at Stroud. Built in 1833, it is one of the oldest surviving church buildings in Eastern Australia. Few people know that it exists.


This is a photo of the outside of the church. It is an unpretentious building, but very characteristic of the architecture of the time.  


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Promoting New England writing

Chatting to a friend this week, I mentioned that I had become a board member of The New England Writers' Centre. I also said that one of the two immediate projects that I had taken on was concerned with the promotion of New England writers and writing. Are there many, I was asked?

Feeling slightly stroppy, I asked my friend to name a few Australian writers. As I had hoped, three of the four named had New England connections.

Back in September, I posed the question Should we have a festival of New England writing? My idea then was an annual event that might promote New England writers and writing to a wider audience and that might grow into a major event like Byron Bay. That remains my dream, but there are a few intermediate steps first.

One is to grow the New England Writers' Centre cash flow to support the promotion of New England writing in the broad sense, as well as the capacity to seed fund a major annual event. For reasons implicit in my last post, The forgetting of Newcastle, there is little point in looking for NSW Government funding. It is a little hard to explain to Sydney based officials why they should fund an activity whose key aim is to promote the existence of traditions independent of Sydney or indeed NSW!

This need not be the case, of course, if NSW Government policy was based on a recognition of diversity. However, it is hard to plan and fund in a world where mind sets require centralised uniform, integrating approaches with key performance indicators directly linked to those uniform approaches. What do you do when someone asks for money based on the explicit assumption that those centralised approaches are wrong, that alternative paths should be followed? It all becomes just too hard. This is not a criticism of those involved, simply an observation about the way systems work.

To overcome this problem I have set a target of raising at least $100,000 in donations over the next few months with a key focus on the New England diaspora. Why $100,000? This would give the NEWC the minimum cash required to operate for twelve months without any form of Government subsidies and allow it to promote New England writers and writing in addition to its existing activities.

A number of issues have to be worked through before such a campaign can be launched. At this point, I am simply giving advance notice. Expect more in due course.    

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The forgetting of Newcastle

I have been working my way through a discussion paper entitled Framing the Future: Developing and arts and cultural policy for NSW. I will no doubt comment on the whole document in due course. Here I want to comment on one element, the theme entitled Arts and Culture for, by and across the whole of NSW.  The introduction states:

The location of arts and audiences has a strong influence on content, participation, delivery and engagement in culture.

NSW localities have different cultures, facilities and opportunities. It is important to ensure that opportunities to create and experience are spread across the State to ensure all contribute to and benefit from a rich cultural life. Locally relevant approaches are required to support arts and culture in different regions.

To amplify this theme, the specific geographic locations covered are:

  • Regional NSW
  • Sydney, Western Sydney and Greater Metropolitan Sydney.

Sydney, Western Sydney and Greater Metropolitan Sydney are treated as three separate entities. And, what, you may ask, is Greater Metropolitan Sydney? Why Newcastle and the Central Coast. It may also include Blue Mountains, but that's not clear.

Now what, you may ask is proposed.

The proposed goal for this theme is:

Sydney is an acknowledged cultural leader in the Asia-Pacific region, drawing on the unique
offerings of the CBD and the broader Sydney region.

Two questions are set for consideration:

  • What is required to make Sydney the acknowledged cultural leader in the Asia Pacific?
  • How can the NSW Government best work with councils in the CBD and greater
    Sydney in creating a rich cultural environment across the whole of the Sydney region?

These are the proposed directions:

Enhance the cultural identity and year round programming across Sydney with a coordinated
year round program of events and integrated promotions, and integrate major events, festivals, cultural programming into the NSW Government brand strategy

Enhance value, access and encourage repeat attendance at arts and cultural venues in Sydney
by proposals to:
— Investigate development of a Sydney Culture Pass to encourage visitation to Sydney’s arts,
museums and cultural sites
— Investigate and improve transport to key sites on Sydney’s arts and cultural ribbon
— Investigate ways to increase participation of children in State Cultural Institutions’ programming.

Co-promotion, shared programming and coordination between key organisations in Sydney CBD, Western Sydney and Greater Sydney

Strategic partnerships by the three tiers of government for priority localities to consolidate
investment of resources

MMMM. What can I say? Well, consider this to begin with:

  • There is no recognition of the separate cultural identities of Newcastle or the Central Coast
  • There is no recognition of Newcastle's role as a cultural centre for surrounding areas and beyond. Indeed, the boundaries effectively truncate Newcastle from the rest of the Hunter.
  • There is no recognition that Newcastle is actually in competition with Sydney, is striving to further develop its own very distinct cultural identity and needs integration with Sydney as an outrider like it needs a hole in the head.

See what I mean?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

We love South Grafton

Earle Page's hospital, South Grafton

For those on Facebook, Ursh Tunks has started a new Facebook page called "We love South Grafton". The drawing shows the building that was Earle Page's private hospital.

Ursh describes her purpose in this way:

I figure that we need to band together to promote our beautiful little heritage listed village and the township of South Grafton. That doesn't detract from being part of the Clarence Valley Community it merely allows us to celebrate the beauty, sense of community, ingenuity and strength of character of those on our side of the mighty Clarence.

That makes a lot of sense to me, for South Grafton's own history and character has become a little submerged. Expect a little of South Grafton's history from time to time.

Monday, December 02, 2013

A Robinson service car on the Dorrigo mountain road


This photograph comes from the Bellingen and Urunga Museums. It shows the Robinson service car going down the Dorrigo mountain.

It is historically significant for two reasons.

First, it shows the state of that mountain road in the early days of motor transport. Prior to that bullock drays crawled down that stretch.

Secondly, it is another example of the transport services offered by the Robinsons, an entrepreneurial New England family who had so much impact on New England transport and well beyond.