Saving souls

Posted on 26 July 2011


Late last year when I was applying for full-time jobs, I tried once again to make my work history look like a coherent career.

It looked like this:

I was pretty proud of having gotten all my stuff into one 2D diagram but it still didn’t strike me as looking particularly coherent, at least not to any major organisation.

Then, seeing as there are two main streams to my career, I tried to do it in two columns: business and arts. Until I discovered overlaps across the two categories and the whole system dissolved.

After that I decided maybe it would be better to colour code each job I’d had. But that looked ridiculous.

The resume wasn’t particularly successful but trying to package my past was a great exercise. It really highlighted that perhaps the most important part of my history is working with Vibewire.

Vibewire is a youth media organisation based in Sydney and in 2002 when I was 23 it opened up a whole new world for me.

For starters, it introduced me to the awesomeness of online communities. I found like-minded people around my age and I had some amazing discussions and debates about all sorts of things I had never thought of before, or if I had, had never found anyone who wanted to talk about them. I met and worked with several people who are still friends including the one who gave me the excuse I needed to move cities this year.

And that was just for starters.

Working with Vibewire sucked me straight into a community where people had life goals other than stability and an exponential income projection, where my aspiration to turn my passions into a day job weren’t automatically ridiculed as naïve.

If I hadn’t found Vibewire I shudder to think of the desert my life would have been. I think, in all seriousness, that Vibewire might have saved my life.

As well as show me the community I belonged in, Vibewire also introduced me to the This Is Not Art festival in Newcastle, NSW.

The first time I went to TINA was in 2003 and it was because people I knew from arguing on the Vibewire forums were going. Conveniently, my sister had recently moved to Newcastle to do Australia’s best medical degree so I got to visit her too.

I spent a lot of the five days feeling like an intruder and a lot of it having my mind blown from all angles. I volunteered with the writers’ festival and somehow by 2004 I had become its official schmoozer. I became part of the TINA machine—an explosive, passionate meld of driven creative types who work for nothing to put on a ridiculously dense program every year.

Projects like Vibewire and TINA draw incredible loyalty to themselves; my experiences are not unique.

So when they needed some help this year, they had an enormous support networks to draw upon.

Vibewire publishes a quarterly anthology of young people’s writing and recently found that they couldn’t afford the next one. They ran a campaign this month through Australian crowdfunding platform Pozible to raise money from public donations. Their target was $4000 and they got it and bit more (including $10 from me).

Around about the same time, in a show of the lack of ethics, professionalism, and basic grasp of reality typical of government bodies when it comes to anything creative, for the first time in ten years–and three months out from the 2011 event’s start date–Newcastle City Council didn’t renew the festival’s triennial funding.

So maybe the application was a bit slap-dash, maybe it was a bit presumptuous, who knows. But when an event has gotten Newcastle noticed by the rest of the country and the world as a place worth going, when Council’s own tourism plan touts it as an essential item on the city’s calendar, when it brings $1.5 million to a seaside town on a chilly and often wet weekend, you’d think it would get a little latitude. It didn’t.

Council may have needed some extra convincing, but the TINA community didn’t.

On Thursday morning  7 July, TINA’s Gareth Hart started a Pozible campaign to raise a minimum of $4000—well below the $18,000 it needed, but an easy goal to start with.

On Saturday 9 July, Gareth updated TINA’s campaign page on the Pozible site. The original goal had been reached with donations from individuals ranging from $10 to the hundreds. He set a new target of $6,000. It was reached in another few days. The total amount of money raised for TINA via Pozible now sits at over $9,000. And there are still 11 days to go.

Meanwhile, Copyright Agency Limited noticed some spare money lying around* and decided that TINA could have it. Or some of it. Or something. Whatever. The point is, TINA has $9,000 from its community, another $9,000 from CAL, and it is still alive and twitching, at least for 2011.

Newcastle City Council has also re-evaluated its priorities and, according to TINA’s media release, “…decided to increase their financial support and include provisions for better planning and assistance for TINA into the future.” Hopefully that idea will stick and we won’t need to throw another nation-wide tantrum to convince them 12 weeks out from the 2012 festival.

This year I’m fulfilling a dream and flying straight to my ninth TINA from the south of France. I’ve donated as much as I can to the campaign because I’d like to continue my tradition of having it be my creative professional sabbatical for another nine years.

If you would like to as well, you’ve got 11 days. And in case you missed all the other links, CLICK HERE.

It’s funny to think that I’ve ended up here on this high horse because one day almost ten years ago I was bored at work and a search engine led me to Vibewire.

* It’s amazing the way organisations can find significant sums of money gathering dust when situations get really dire. Arts orgs really should do public desperation more often.