Creative Community
The Role of Artists/Writers

I am deeply interested in roles writers, and for that matter artists in general, can play in their community. Obviously their first obligation is to their art/craft, but there are times when we all want to help out. How can I best do this? I’m not much good at unblocking drains or filling sand bags in floods, or helping to drive trucks or beat out fires. And since I overdid the strength in the coffee I have not be allowed back onto kitchen duty –  but I can do other things.

I have written about this in the following two articles.

Download my Ballarat Courier feature article >

Download my article for the Victorian Writers’ Centre >

I have spent a good deal of time trying to work out – among other things –

  • What can I, as a writer/artist, bring?
  • How do communities embrace change?
  • What lessons am I taught?
  • What is the role of the knockers, the timid and the planners?
  • How do the parts of a community work together?
  • How do these different types of people with different hopes, dreams, histories and abilities all find a meaningful role to play?
  • How do we build in succession and long levity?
  • What is sustainability and how do we measure it?

I firmly believe that no idea, no matter how spectacular, can work if it doesn’t bring the group along for the ride… and that’s really where all the work is. Having the idea is easy, what is difficult, time consuming and just hard work, is working with a group to make the idea happen.

The power to bring about change lies fundamentally within the group. And that group is made up of difference – people with different skills and different knowledges. The kind of knowledge I have tends to be privileged by power brokers and grant administrators. But there are other knowledges which I do not have, yet deeply respect – for example, a knowledge of how to work with, and read, the environment; or a profound understanding of local history at a domestic level and how it impacts and shapes the expectations of the group.  When combined these knowledges can fly like dragon kites. They can take our breath away, they can reshape our vision and the world.

Working in my community has taught me that a united difference is eminently more powerful than a united sameness.

The Magician nickname

Joan Kirner came to Clunes to talk to us about our project. She called me the Magician. Later Carmel Bird was speaking at a book promotion event in one of the Clunes’s bookshops and she too called me the Magician, creating a fairy story around it. The tag echoed and I liked it.

I like it because the Magician requires the use of a lot of power and resources and is only part of the solution, part of the narrative. The Magician, unlike the hero, can have doubts, be absent if not absent-minded, and have any number of other flaws. Importantly, the Magician does not work alone.

Besides, there is the hint of creativity in this nickname.

Writing About Clunes Booktown

I am currently working on a memoir of my coming to Clunes in 2003 up to the first Booktown festival in 2007.

Like any new project, its the hardest thing I have ever taken on and its taking its own time to write.