A Writer’s Colony
I just returned from four days in Dubbo with the wife and five kids. We had a great time in a rented caravan for three nights, visited the Western Plains Zoo and also did some shopping in Dubbo. I found a terrific bookshop, ‘The Book Connection’ run by Dave Pankhurst, a well read gentleman who has one of the best bookshops I have had the pleasure of browsing through.
It has a ‘Men’s Shed’ at the back with books for blokes as well as a magnificent collection of literature any library would be proud to own. His back-list must be huge! As well as a great range of new books, he also sells pre-loved editions and of course, if he doesn’t have it on the shelves or out the back right now, he will get it in for you.
I also went out to Collie (pronounced Col – lye) and had a look at a block of land the wife and I bought some years ago to establish her with a credit history and some ‘collateral’ when we were buying our home. The little hamlet there has a pub and a tennis court and a small church with about five in the congregation, a closed down school now used as a private dwelling and several houses. And a war memorial. I was taken aback that such a small community sent such a relatively large number of men (more than 30) to the Great War and nearly a quarter of them made the supreme sacrifice. Lest We Forget. These men may have joined in the ‘Cooee March’ from nearby Gilgandra to Sydney to enlist, quite a feat back in 1915.
The idea is to start a Writers Colony there. It is ideal as far as peace and quiet are concerned and the sunsets over the outback are inspiring. As well, the Collie Hotel has a swag of characters you could write reams about, just from the stories they have to tell over a cold beer or three. I envisage maybe three or four caravans or porta cabin type dwellings with airconditioning and a decent septic tank toilet system, rain water tank and solar power to augment the local grid. I had internet connection there via my trusty Optus supplied Netbook. Gilgandra is only 20 minutes away and Warren maybe 30 with Dubbo just 50 minutes drive.
Each writer (or artist) would have their own room with study and eventually ensuite bathroom. All meals provided and peace and quiet through the day and communal time after 6pm. Trips to town or furhter into the bush, swimming at the local billabong and for a change, dinner at one of the many well serviced RSL or Bowling clubs in the area. Writers could arrive by car, or I pick them up from the train station in Gilgandra or Dubbo, or they fly in or arrive by coach.
I would love to get some funding from the arts council or even the local Aboriginal bodies and support indigenous writers, maybe bring a city born Koori writer out to the bush for a week or two. Just having the different voices around the dinner table after a good day’s writing, white, black, migrant, feminist, homosexual, left handed who cares? The more diversity the better.
All writers would be able to avail of the electronic publishing opportunities here as well as being published by StreetWise Publications in paper and ink. Dave at The Book Connection has already said he would be happy to support book signings and other literary activities and the local shires and city councils in the area are always looking for ways to encourage community participation. Perhaps Collie would become well known as the place for artists, writers, sculptors and even composers. The hamlet might grow and even become a place for people to go out of their way to visit.
Making the move is a huge step. Mostly because of the kids and the wife. I sold up in 2002 and went off to live with her in the Philippines and have never regretted that major life changing decision. I am sure once she gets used to the nearest anything other than the pub being a good 20 minutes drive away she would be fine and so long as there is internet access and electricity the kids are fine. Anyway, it is a dream but one I dream with my eyes wide open, and those are the dreams that usually come true.