Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cultural Activities in Regional Australia

Photo: Painting of Chaney Coventry, New England Regional Art Museum

One of the things that worries some in our big metro centres like Sydney or Melbourne in considering a move to Regional Australia is that they will lose access to cultural activities like art, opera, concerts or drama. The reality is different, but also quite complicated.

I think that it has certainly been true in the past that certain cultural activities have not been available in regional areas simply because the population has not been there to support them. If you look at the post on my personal blog, Personal Reflections, on Brian D Barnes and the New England Theatre Centre, you will see that this mid sixties attempt to establish a fully professional theatre company in a regional area failed largely because the population was too small to support it. But you will also see that, at least so far as I was concerned, it provided an intensity of experience that would probably not have been available in a metro area.

Things have changed enormously since the sixties. The development of major regional centres means that a greater variety is now available to those within a reasonable drive of such centres. The internet itself has changed things by making information about activities and events more readily available. Governments have helped as well through the provision of various cultural support activities.

While this may be a contentious argument, I suspect that it has always been the case that Regional Australia has contributed more to Australian cultural activities relative to size of population than the bigger metros. I am not talking here about the dominance of country themes in our cultural history, but about people.

I think that the size of this contribution has been concealed in part by the fact that so many of these people have moved to metro centres or overseas to pursue their careers. I also think that it has been concealed because unlike Tasmania, many of our major regions like New England, Riverina or Capricornia failed to achieve statehood and the trappings and focus that went with statehood.

As a case in point, I read and enjoyed Patrice Newell's book the River (Penguin 2003). Patrice is a tree changer who moved to Gundy in the Hunter Valley and has written a series of best selling books around the experience. Patrice's book triggered an initial post on my New England, Australia blog on New England - Writers.

Since then I have written six more posts on New England writers and barely scratched the surface. I feel that I have unleashed a tiger that might consume me. Yet if I were to ask any of my Sydney or Melbourne friends to name one New England writer I doubt that they could.

I am sure that the New England case is duplicated across Regional Australia. For that reason, I am going to devote my next few posts to providing at least an overview of cultural activities across Regional Australia.

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