Desperate bid to write a wrong

ASPIRING writers in the central west have been dealt a blow with a key support and development service set to close at the end of the year because of the state government’s decision to cut its $37,000 annual funding.

The Central West Writers Centre began in 1996 to develop and promote literary activities in the central west, spanning an area from Lithgow to Lake Cargelligo.

It was co-funded by Arts NSW and the five councils, Orange, Blayney, Cabonne, Cowra and Forbes, in the Central West Libraries (CWL) group.

CWL manager Jan Richards said the councils were forced to step up their contributions to the centre last year when the government slashed the funding by two-thirds.

All the affected councils and the library community have been urged to write to their local state members and Minister for the Arts George Souris to protest the funding cut.

But Mrs Richards said so far the decision had not been reversed.

“It’s disappointing ... while initially the centre was managed by a community committee it’s been part of the library infrastructure for the past eight years,” she said.

“We believe we’ve provided a fantastic service across the central west, with the funds we deliver a service for more than just the five councils.”

Orange poet Diana Bell Brooks was a founding member of the centre and said the support it provided was critical when her first book was published last year.

“There was a great increase in people coming to give workshops, not just in Orange or Bathurst but in places like Cowra and Lake Cargelligo,” she said.

“[The centre] really does give hope, because it’s such a long and unclear journey to publication.”

She said aspiring writers in rural areas had few places they could go for support and the gains made by the centre reaching hundreds of people would be lost if its closure went ahead, especially for those isolated by distance or other factors.

Mrs Richards said the centre’s workshops and monthly drop-in days would end when it closed, and the number of author talks and book launches at the library would also reduce because of the funding cut.

“It’s a competitive grants process and the writers centres compete against galleries, museums for a limited pool of money,” she said.

She said it was especially disappointing the centre had to close on the back of a renewed focus on literacy with the National Year of Reading last year.

The centre’s Reading and Writing Coordinator Jasmine Vidler will remain in the same role for the Central West Libraries.

A spokeswoman for member for Orange Andrew Gee confirmed the matter has been raised with Mr Souris.

clare.colley@

fairfaxmedia.com.au

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