Creative community program gets under way in Armidale

Published 26 April 2012

An innovative community arts program conducted through the University of New England is about to bring the first in a series of “writers and illustrators in residence” to Armidale.

Clare McFadden, author and illustrator of the award-winning children’s book The Flying Orchestra, will arrive in Armidale on the 4th of May to conduct a fortnight-long program of workshops for children and parents, students, teachers, other community groups, and members of the general public. She will be in residence at UNE (staying in Mary White College), where she will be working on a new picture book and interacting with staff members and students.

Her workshops – except for one at UNE for university and TAFE students – will be at the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM), where she will also be speaking, on Friday 11 May, at the opening of new exhibitions that include a display of illustrations from Madeleine Winch’s well-known children’s book Come by Chance. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the University to work with NERAM, and to be engaged with Armidale’s cultural community,” said the manager of the “Creative Communities in Children’s and Young Adult Literature” program, Dr Elizabeth Hale. Dr Hale said the program was being conducted in association with Arts New England (UNE’s Centre for Research and Innovation in the Arts) and with partners – in addition to NERAM – including the New England Writers’ Centre and the local branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia.

It was Dr Hale, a Senior Lecturer in English and Communication Studies at UNE, who obtained the $90,000 grant from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund to finance the program, which will bring three published writer/illustrators to Armidale in each of the years 2012, 2013 and 2014. “It’s about giving people the opportunity to develop confidence in their storytelling and illustrating, and to discover how you can tell stories through pictures,” she said. “And it’s offering professional role models to people who may want to explore writing/illustrating as a career.”

As well as being a writer and illustrator, Clare McFadden is a producer and facilitator of arts-based programs for children and communities around Australia. Her Armidale program will include work with Armidale Sanctuary, the Indigenous community, and teachers and students of education, as well as workshops for preschool, primary, secondary, university and TAFE students. A workshop for members of the general public, from 11 am to 1 pm at NERAM on Saturday 12 May will, she says, “aim to demystify the process of writing and illustrating a book – from the initial concept to pitching the final product”. She will also be giving a reading of her work at the Armidale Dumaresq Council War Memorial Library, on Saturday 5 May, from 10.30 am.

The second of this year’s writers and illustrators will be Kevin Burgemeestre, the illustrator of children’s books including Bernard Was a Bikie and Thunder Mountain, who will be in residence from the 18th of May to the 2nd of June. He, too, divides his time between writing and illustrating children’s books and giving workshops – for schools, libraries, universities and groups of teachers.

The third and last of the “writers and illustrators in residence” for this year will be Tristan Bancks, who will be in Armidale from the 6th to the 17th of June. A film maker as well as a storyteller in print, his books include the recent Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space (UQP, 2011) and My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up (Random House, 2011).

For more details about the program, e-mail creativecommunities@une.edu.au or Dr Elizabeth Hale: ehale@une.edu.au.