Summer Reading: Writing centre a success

Peter Jeffery

A LOCAL writing institution in himself and catalyst for a generation of young writers, PETER JEFFERY talks about what led to the formation of the new Vincent Writing Centre and how successful the venture has become. Keep your eyes out for some contributions from the centre’s first anthology in the coming weeks.

SOME people say human communication began with dance and body gestures, but I choose oral expression and memory which took full force from the binding nature of narrative.

Most impressively our first people in small tribal groups took an annual walkabout cycle of over 300 miles, framed in their six seasons and the available food at various sites by mythologising landmarks in their narratives around the evening campfires.

Each adult was the sole custodian of her or his particular story that gave an oral anchor to a particular resting place.

But with the development of writing civilisation surged forward with its great capacity for data storage that carried genealogy, law, religion, property rights, specific occupational knowledge, entertainment, and allowed records of creative imagination speculations that inspired fresh cultural initiatives.

Indeed the whole of human birth, life and death are sustained by the constant presence of writing and it is no accident that advanced cultures place the strongest educational emphasis on reading and writing.

So why a Vincent Writing Centre?

West Australia had three such centres established over many decades and housed in pepper-corn rent heritage properties – The Fellowship of Australian Writers WA Tom Collins House in Swanbourne-Cottesloe, Katherine Susanna Prichard’s home in Mundaring and Peter Cowan’s mother’s cottage in Joondalup, but as yet no permanent site in Perth’s CBD.

I approached Vincent mayor Emma Cole and the Vincent library, and applied for the seeding Vincent cultural quickstart grant, with the backing of WA Poets Inc.

Gaining the grant for a 16-week trial period, and with its emphasis on community development, we pitched its recruitment towards the general public and established writers with great success.

By the trial’s end we had many impressive outcomes such as regular member interviews, written contributions and radio drama on KCR’s In Life Art Abounds, on the Wednesday morning Arts Magazine.

We collaborated successfully with local musicians, especially the Perth Folk and Roots Society, and our Anzac Vigil, performed on April 24 at Vincent’s Heritage Anzac Cottage, involving music from the PFRS and the Vietnamese Classical Opera Society and poetry from three WAPI members, was well attended and supported by the Voice and The West.

During the winter poetry festival WAPI and some of the VWC members joined in with Lorikeet, a halfway house that marries the artwork of the disabled with the work of WAPI poets.

It is in this manner that we build up the confidence of the disadvantaged.

Following a December/January recess we’ll once again be on the community billboard, so if you are interested in becoming a writer, regardless of your skill level, email me at peter.jeffery@iinet.net.au or call 0481 462 612.

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