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.