21 January 2024

One last roll of the dice for defunded Booranga Writers' Centre

| Chris Roe
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The Booranga Writers' Centre at CSU.

The Booranga Writers’ Centre at CSU. Photo: Supplied.

The team behind Wagga’s Booranga Writers’ Centre remains hopeful of securing the money to keep going after missing out on State Government funding from Create NSW.

The management committee met on Friday (19 Jan) to weigh up their options and to decide if the centre had a future.

“It was a good meeting and there was more positivity than negativity,” said Booranga Writers’ Centre Business Manager Dr Greg Pritchard, who is one of two part-time staff whose positions are largely funded by government grants.

“We discussed the feedback that we had from various people at Create NSW and talked about our current financial situation, what money we’ve got, what liabilities we have, and looking at how long we could continue with the money we have in reserve.”

The centre has been in operation for 30 years on the Charles Sturt Univeristy (CSU) campus and supports local writers, hosts events and a residency program and publishes the annual anthology of new writing, fourW.

In December they learned their application to the Literature Board for annual program funding of $60,000 had not been successful.

READ ALSO ‘Very concerned’: Dr Joe calls for review of Booranga Writers’ Centre funding cut

A spokesperson from Create NSW told Region the large number of applicants meant that organisations were prioritised and their requests ranked by an “expert independent” Artform Advisory Board.

“While the board assessed that the Booranga Writers’ Centre met the published criteria for annual program funding, their application was not ranked as highly as the four organisations that received funding in this round,” they said.

“Booranga Writers’ Centre is eligible to apply for future funding opportunities with Create NSW, including in Round 2 of the 2023/24 Arts and Cultural Funding Program which opens on 15 January.”

Mr Pritchard said his conversations with Create NSW had been positive and they were hopeful they would be successful in round two.

“They didn’t have any problems with the application and felt that the strategic plan that I put together was good, and showed a strong and viable direction,” he said.

“Round two is open now and the discussion today was around how we can strengthen that application, so I will be working exclusively on putting in the strongest application we can.”

Booranga Writers’ Centre President David Gilby was also encouraged by the meeting and hoped they would be able to bridge the gap until the second round of funding.

“I’m very pleased that we’ve got a plan and we will immediately apply for that second round of funding, which is actually for an 18-month period, rather than a 12-month period, so, if we are successful, then we should be on course until the end of 2025,” he said.

“We’ve got enough funds to at least keep paying our staff until the end of March and we’ll be looking at some of the costing and other ways that we might support our immediate operations.”

READ ALSO A legacy deeply steeped in crime now has art at its heart

The committee plans to pause the writers-in-residence program but will continue the regular reading events at The Curious Rabbit and will publish the fourW anthology.

“We only have one writer in residence that we’re already committed to from last year, so we’ll proceed with that, but we’ll hold off any further writer residencies until we see how we go,” Mr Gilby said.

“We feel that we probably should increase our membership fee and the fees for submissions for fourW and we discussed other ideas for fundraising too.”

Writers’ centres in Newcastle and Wollongong received first-round funding while inland programs like Booranga and the New England Writers’ Centre in Armidale missed out.

Mr Gilby said he felt that regional arts applicants were being overshadowed by larger coastal centres.

“We feel there was a problem in the mindset of the final group of people that ticked off our funding approval, in that they regarded Newcastle and Woolongong as regional rather than metropolitan,” he said.

“So that in the breakdown of the statistics of funding for the regions vs metropolitan, it looks good, but we know that living in a place like Wagga or Armidale is different to those large coastal cities.”

While they remain hopeful, Mr Gilby said this final funding request would likely be their last roll of the dice.

“I’m an optimist and I believe in doing what you can when you can, but let me say, if we’re not successful in this next round, I think we all feel – well, they clearly don’t understand,” he said.

“If they don’t support us, for me, that’s a kind of bottom line.”

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