As writers and artists we spend a lot of time alone; working on our craft; creating from a place of dedication. To balance this lonesome occupation we have the opportunity to network with others in our field through conventions, festivals and our local community groups.
Although I’m quite happy to plod away, enjoying the company of my characters, I gain so much from connecting with others that I try to get out and about as much as possible. Volunteering, teaching, mentoring and networking with like-minded creatives not only fuels my own passion, but it also reminds me that we each have our own path; our achievements shouldn’t be compared.
In the gloom of another publisher rejection (these become regular when you put yourself out there), and while working to expand my knowledge by studying a degree in Creative and Critical Writing, I received an email from my local council’s Arts & Cultural Services Manager. He asked if I’d be interested in taking on an ambassador’s role to help develop their new Arts and Culture Strategy.
The title ‘ambassador’ sounds pretty fancy to me, like a sous chef or a reprographics expert. What it meant exactly I wasn’t too sure of until we had our first meeting. In the meantime I was quite happy to file that rejection email; I now felt valued because somehow, someone had noticed the work I was doing when I wasn’t sitting behind a keyboard.
The obvious drawback of living in a regional area is the limit to opportunities; employment, education, entertainment, resources and the availability of paleo sausages. The Bundaberg region, I’m my opinion, is on that cusp between country and city. We’re not large enough to require a rail system through the suburbs, but we have a Guzman Y Gomez (that’s the marker post isn’t it?) and a thriving arts community. Arts communities have so many different arms and legs that they can flail around without direction (still enjoying itself thoroughly of course). Council’s Arts and Cultural Strategy hopes to give these limbs a head, so that it can grow with purpose and dance with coordination. Or here’s the formal version from the documentation:
‘The Bundaberg Region Arts and Cultural Strategy aims to provide an overarching vision and direction for the delivery of Bundaberg Regional Council’s arts and cultural facilities, programs and services as well as providing a framework for the consideration of future priorities and directions for investment in and with the community.’
Twelve ambassadors from across different arts disciplines have been selected to run focus groups and guide the participants through a consultation process on the various themes of the strategy. This process as part of the strategy has been developed in conjuction with CQUniversity. The consultation themes include: Audiences and Promotion, Brokerage and Partners, Community and Culture, Development of Artists and Work, and Environments, Places and Spaces. Before we were to be the implementers of said consultations we first engaged with one another in an intenstive engagement process where we brainstormed responses to the target areas. Yes, there was butchers paper and glue sticks, yet oddly no coffee or lamingtons – this was hardcore stuff.
Before Council’s official launch of the strategy in June with a PechaKucha presentation (I know, these are the rage right now), I’ll need to have completed the engagement consultation with my focus group and collate the data for submission. Lucky for me that I like to get out from behind my keyboard. Other writers I’m not so sure. But that’s okay, I’m already brainstorming the lure: white chocolate and blueberry cake, plum and custard slice and, of course, the opportunity to help shape the future of their arts community.