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September 2012

The Invisible Thread series: Bill Gammage

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The Biggest Estate on EarthThe Invisible Thread, an anthology of 100 years of writing from the Canberra region, will hit bookshop shelves on 22 October. In the meantime I’ve been very busy working with a filmmaker on a series of interviews with the authors. Today the very first of them has been launched. Chatting with Bill Gammage, one of Australia’s most eminent historians, was such a delight. Just back from a trip to Europe he was still suffering from jet lag, not that it was possible to tell. Listening to him talk was fascinating.

While we were setting up the cameras and doing sound checks he revealed that he tells his PhD students not to take longer than three years to complete their theses even though The Biggest Estate on Earth took him 12 years. ‘I tell them to ignore my example,’ he said with a smile.

Those 12 years certainly paid off. The Biggest Estate on Earth is a groundbreaking work, one that should be prescribed reading for all Australians. While overseas he received notification that he’d won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Australian History, the richest literary prize our country has to offer. Other awards have since followed, and no doubt there’ll be more. They are all well deserved.

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An extract from The Biggest Estate is included in The Invisible Thread, and I spoke with Bill about his book, why our current land management strategies are inept, and why he hopes his book will increase respect for Aboriginal achievements.

Calling on the crowd

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Crowd-funding is the new big thing, and it’s raising big bucks. Not surprisingly, the notoriously under-resourced arts sector has been quick to recognise the opportunities it offers to access a new kind of funding. Pozible, Australia’s largest crowd-funding platform, has only been going since 2010 but it has already supported over 1300 projects and raised over $2.5 million dollars in funding.

So how does it work? Individuals or organisations post a project on their website, set a target and a deadline, and then hit social media calling for donations. Here’s the catch. If the target isn’t reached by the campaign’s end none of the donations are processed and the organisation doesn’t receive a cent. So setting realistic goals is important.

The Queensland Literary Awards is one example of a successful Pozible campaign. When Premier Campbell Newman cut the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in order to save the comparatively small sum of $240,000, the literary community was stunned. In response, a passionate group of writers launched a Pozible campaign to enable the awards to continue, albeit with reduced prize money. The public have enthusiastically supported their campaign and with just days left to go they have already exceeded their $20,000 target by over $8000.

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Further afield, one campaign that is looking less likely of meeting its goal is St. Mark’s Bookstore in New York City. They are aiming to raise $23,000 via crowd-funding site Lucky Ant. It’s tough times for bookshops and in order to survive St. Mark’s needs funds to relocate their store and develop a more sophisticated online presence. As I write this they have only a week to go and are still short by $8000. St. Mark’s is an iconic bookstore and we need to prevent these havens of bookish goodness from disappearing, so fingers crossed there’s a late rush and they meet their goal.

Meanwhile I’m concentrating on our own Pozible campaign to raise funds for The Invisible Thread, an anthology of 100 years of writing by authors who have a connection with Canberra, edited by yours truly. The book has already received support from the ACT Government, Centenary of Canberra and National Year of Reading, among others, but we are still short of funds to cover printing costs and pay authors for appearances at our scheduled events. We’re hoping that we follow in the Queensland Literary Awards’ successful footsteps. At just $5000 we think we’ve set a realistic goal. We have already raised over $3000, and with 31 days to go we’re quietly hopeful. The great thing about Pozible is that it’s not all one-way. There are rewards on offer for those who donate, including advance copies of The Invisible Thread and VIP invitations to Woven Words, a forthcoming event of words and music with readings from our authors and music from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

So head on over to Pozible and check out all the wonderful projects that you can help make a reality. There are feature films and exhibitions and debut EPs to support. Oh, and a little book called The Invisible Thread. Supporting that one would make a certain person very happy indeed. 

The Canberra Times_The Invisible Thread