New arts voice for Canberra

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HOT upon calls by the former ACT Chief (and Arts) Minister Jon Stanhope for some serious advocacy in the ACT arts, news has arrived that several ACT and region arts leaders have just formed themselves into a new voice for the arts, “The Childers Group”.

Described as “an independent forum committed to the long-term viability and vitality of the arts in the ACT and surrounding areas” by its Childers Group spokesperson, David Williams, the group argues that “world economies are in flux, governments more than ever are balancing competing policies, and many families are struggling to make ends meet”.

In this mix, they say, are artists, key members of society who “question, illuminate, and delight…we know the arts are vital…but how can we assist them to be more viable?”

How indeed? Placing itself at a distance from government and adopting principles of objectivity and independence, the Childers Group says that it will add to its present membership “as appropriate”.

Though most of the members live and work in the ACT, the group intends to build relationships with the surrounding regions.

According to Prof Williams, the Centenary of Canberra is likely to provide context to the group’s work as first cab off the rank will be a public forum on the arts early in 2012, which he expects to be both “exciting” and “provocative”.

Foundation members of the Childers Group are: Evol McLeod, arts manager and chair of Belconnen Arts Centre; Caroline Stacey, artistic director/CEO of The Street Theatre; Elizabeth Brown, from Southern Tablelands Arts (STARTS); Julie Dyson, the Lewis of Ausdance; Nigel Featherstone, writer and former ACT arts bureaucrat; Anita McIntyre, ceramicist and chair of board at Strathnairn Arts; David Williams, emeritus professor at the ANU and former director of the ANU School of Art; and Allan Sko, managing director of BMA Magazine.

For more information, contact the group’s coordinators, Evol McLeod on 0406 378 889 or Nigel Featherstone on 0428 810 442, or email, or visit

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor


  1. attended the Childers Group Forum last night. I was very disappointed and left before it ended.
    The organisation was abysmal. Seating would-be attenders on the Street Theatre stage was a serious error. There was clearly not room for them there. And there was NO handicapped access.
    The speakers should have been on the stage facing the attenders in the auditorium. That’s what the acoustics of a theatre are designed for.
    The MC did not insist that those who spoke were required to stand, so their voices were mostly absorbed by the seated crowd. Many of them spoke with their back to the audience.
    Microphones for the speaker and the makers of comments from the attenders were essential, but not provided.
    In the front row of the auditorium, I could hear less than half of what was being said on the stage.
    The politicians, whom one would expect to be able to project their voices, even if they are not actors, were as unintelligible as the rest.
    The format of the forum was poorly planned and badly executed. This does not augur well for a successful public or artists’ attempt improve the impact and presence of the Arts in Canberra.
    I was disappointed that after so much hype, the simple presentation of a forum seemed to be beyond the abilities of the organisers. Perhaps they should have consulted the theatre community for the best way to speak to an audience in a theatre.

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