What is it about Canowindra?

So what is it about Canowindra, a townlet of fewer than 2000 people in central New South Wales, that it can host a sophisticated dinner for 280 people in its historic main street, with most of the food grown within 100 miles of its little CBD? Continue reading

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The Transformative Power of a Rural Arts Festival: a case study

The biennial Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival founded in Forbes, NSW, in 2010/11, has both intrinsic and instrumental value for the communities it serves, and has catalysed major cultural and social changes in the town. With culture and the creative industries having at last been acknowledged as drivers and enablers of sustainable development, this and other rural arts festivals offer valuable opportunities for collaboration between professionals working in rural and regional development fields and in the creative industries. The potential of rural festivals to enable and drive sustainable development cannot by fully realised, however, until serious capacity deficits are addressed to support the creative industries in small communities, as outlined in the UN’s 2013 Resolution 68/223. Continue reading

Improbable beginnings: my Chaos Theory of Rural Arts Festivals

“Beginnings” are arbitrary, as every storyteller knows. Any event will do, and then the next and the next in a linear sequence of apparent causality until you reach the “ending”, where all the loose strands get tied together into a nice neat conclusion. Or that’s how stories are traditionally told in my part of the world. Continue reading

Australian Pavilion Exhibition, Derbyshire Ecocentre

Eat your heart out Venice Biennale, we rural Aussie arts makers have an Australian Pavilion here in Wirksworth, England, too. Ours is in the Derbyshire Ecocentre, a solar powered architectural masterpiece built from local gritstone, limestone and European Larch, with a living roof of locally endemic native plants. Locals are very proud of this building, the first in Derbyshire to meet the highest design and performance ratings of Britain’s Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEM). Continue reading

Transforming a country town with art

It was true. Arts makers and arts lovers really did take over Wirksworth on the first weekend of this town’s rural arts festival in September 2013. Shop windows filled with contemporary arts and craftsworks, even the local fish and chip shop; the churches too. Dozens of locals offered their houses, gardens and sheds as galleries and willingly allowed artists to fill their walls, shelves and floor spaces with foreign objects, and let complete strangers to wander through their inner sanctums. Continue reading

In England’s navel

Wirksworth nestles in the valley of the Ecclesbourne, a trickle the locals call a river. DH Lawrence, who lived here in 1918, called this town “the navel of England”. We visiting Australians are living at the navel’s very centre, in a couple of houses older than European settlement in our homeland: all locally quarried stone, rickety stairways and small-paned windows overlooking a jumble of slate roofs and chimney pots and, beyond them, a view of dalesides dotted with contented sheep and cows. I’m in White Lion House, a former pub on Coldwell Street opposite the Baptist Church. Continue reading