note by Rjn to introduce correspondence held with the shire council
at his last place of dwelling some years ago.
since I was introduced to the idea by the wonderfully pro active Gosford, NSW, city
cultural development officer Mr Elio Gatti, I have for
many years advocated the idea of Citizen's Cultural Exchanges.
Like a Stock Exchange or Money Exchange, a Cultural Exchange is a
place where people can exchange, share, buy or sell differing
cultural gifts of performance, of artifacts, of lifestyle or belief.
Simply put, these Exchanges encourage artists of every stripe
and hue to come together and create events where residents of an
area can enjoy an interchange of all forms of culture, be it visual,
kinetic, singing, drama, dance, poetry recital or even olfactory.
Such events would improve community connectivity, bolster social
inclusion (particularly for newcomers to an area), and give
interested participants and spectators access to art forms they may
only have heard about previously (or did not know existed at all).
People from all walks of life would converge and be given time to
showcase their talents and wares in a nurturing, sharing and
constructively critical environment.
I moved to Nhill in Western Victoria some three and a half years ago,
I thought it the ideal place (being a remote rural village located on
the main road between Adelaide and Melbourne) to institute such an
Accordingly, the Hindmarsh Shire Council, supposedly responsible for
the health and wellbeing of some 6000 residents (how else would you
describe the benefits of regular exposure to cultural events other
than as a marvellous fillip to one’s ‘health and wellbeing’?),
was sounded out about making its Community Memorial Hall available
for a regular series of such Exchanges. What I am writing now
testifies to the consequences of my overtures and serves as a brief
introduction to the correspondence exchanged with the Council.
you will see from the letters received from the Council and now
posted on this blog, I was met with ignorance, incredulity, hostility
and recalcitrance at every opportunity. I was accused of being rude,
my idea was flatly rejected for being unviable economically, the
Council refused my modest request for ‘funding’ to help
inaugurate the project, I was personally abused, discriminated against and psychologically
battered by a council supposedly there for the benefit of its citizens. I had tried to think locally for the global benefit
of mankind and give all and sundry a chance to tell their own
intrinsic stories through performance. I had tried to bring some sort
of renaissance to a town often mired in petty internecine political
squabbles, beset by the dislocations caused by ‘cliques’, ready
always to fund and promote sport (especially Australian Rules
Football) but averse to sponsoring anything else, insisting time and
time again that only old-fashioned, ‘time-honoured’ cultural
pursuits like tired musicals and operettas or Jazz festivals designed
more as a sly means of advertising a local industry than as a real
way to engage people with culture were what people in the village and
surrounding areas needed or wanted.
refused access to the Memorial Hall, even though the ‘money’
required to hire it was available from the Council (they ultimately
own the building anyway, and so could easily afford to rent it to me
with ‘moneys’ that would simultaneously be received back into the council's bank account or
simply be effected by a book keeping contra-entry recording the "gift" to
the citizens). I was told
there weren’t enough people in the Hindmarsh Shire to justify such
an audacious programme. I was informed that my scheme would pressure
performers into producing works of little or no interest....