Helen Stubbs is an excitable fiction and feature writer living on the Gold Coast, Australia. She loves expanding the vibrancy of local arts and culture through writing and creating community arts projects (like Writers Activation and Contact 2016) and partnerships that operate inclusively and aim for a neutral or positive effect on the environment. Helen’s stories have been published in The Never Never Land, Next and other anthologies and magazines. Sometimes she wins awards and climbs things she shouldn’t. Chat with her on Twitter: @superleni or check out her blog.
I wish I lived closer to the Gold Coast so I could get to Writers Activation, the writing space you curate. How did this project come about, and what has it been like to run?
You should come and hang out with us, Rivqa! Writers Activation is pretty amazing. We’re celebrating our first birthday at the moment. Our party was on 30th July, 2016 with pizza, trivia and fancy dress.
When Council started the Found project (which WAct is part of) they didn’t really know what they were offering… it was $2000 and an opportunity to create city-shaping projects (which sounds cool, right!). Then I was asked what I would do with a space. As a writer, I don’t need much space… I could stay in my tiny office for days.
I went into it asking a lot of questions – what does the local writing community want and need? How would they use a space? It turns out people want somewhere to write and to talk about their projects, or the book they want to write.
People seemed to want a writing centre. Council began to broker relationships between vacant shop owners and creatives, like me. Australia Fair offered me a really nice space with a street shopfront and a few small rooms. Lots of people came on board; old friends and new, bringing in furniture and chipping in to clean and move things in.
It’s been an interesting project because it’s grown naturally, to be what people needed. Meeting more local writers has definitely been a highlight, for me.
Although we started out with a three-month lease, we ended up being there for about ten months, until the shop was leased commercially. Then Australia Fair invited us to move next door. They’ve provided us with free space and electricity for a year.
Over the year we’ve hosted workshops, open mic nights, and stacks of meetings. We’ve collaborated with the city art gallery on competitions. We’ve promoted launches and performance events all over the Coast. Some people come in regularly to write. Some read the locally written books we have on our shelves.
The main challenge has been not letting it take over my life. Our opening hours aren’t all that regular, and at least one person is cranky about that.
WAct has started some people writing fiction and/or improved their skills, and it’s nurtured friendship groups, built networks and provided a productive space for people to write.