in the previous Coalition Government now has a weekly column in our state newspaper. I rather like his style. He often talks a lot of surprisingly even handed common sense. This morning he was discussing the fact that the fair city of Adelaide is not exactly a bustling metropolis where things happen.
It is true. Not a lot happens in Adelaide in the progressive sense. We have a V8 car race we could do without. In my not so humble opinion driving cars at great speeds around city streets is not a sport. It is dangerous. It wastes precious fossil fuel. It encourages others to think they can speed safely. It encourages hooning. Despite the apparent crowds very few people are really involved and it disrupts the lives of many other people who live in the surrounding area. Of course it is a photo opportunity for the Premier et al. I suppose that is important - if you are a politicians.
There is also a bit of sport - if you happen to be interested. Again the real numbers involved are minimal as a percentage of the population.
Occasionally an internationally rated rock/pop/something else group will descend - if they can sell enough tickets.
Then there is the Festival of Arts. This, at present, occurs every two years. There is talk of making it an annual event. Other states have their festivals of the arts as annual events. Adelaide has only ever been biennial. There has been a good reason for this. We have been too small to support anything more. I suspect we still are. The idea behind the original festival was a good one. It would do two things, bring people and cultural items of interest to people in Adelaide over a two week period and allow those people to mix.
The Festival still brings cultural items to Adelaide, or what are perceived to be cultural items. Certainly some of them have been world class. Others have been so "artistic" that only those who negotiated their attendance appear to have understood their relevance - or so people tell me. I do not have the financial resources to justify paying $100 or more for a ticket for an hour of entertainment late in the evening. Some people must but I do not know of anyone who actually attends such events.
That however is not the problem and Alexander Downer recognises it. He would, I think, be the first to say that those who come need more opportunities to mix with local people. The Festival organisers, having gambled on at least breaking even, are more concerned with getting the maximum number of performers for the maximum profit. It is the same for authors. They are naturally required to attend a certain number of sessions at the tents erected at the Parade Ground. (No Nicola - if you are reading this - we do not have anything as romantic as a yurt.)
They are, if the appropriate sort of author, taken off on a round of school visits or to lecture at one of the universities. If you are a 'member of the public' you might be lucky to be able to ask a question or exchange a few words when you line up to get the author to sign the book you have bought in the other tent. Right.
It used to be different. It was once not a commercial affair. I met and mixed with many authors in the early days of Writers' Weeks. I still have contact with some. They do not like the commercialisation of the event. We all accept it is an economic necessity of sorts. If the event is to survive at all it has to happen but authors regret, perhaps even resent, the lack of real contact with their readers. Answering a question is one thing. Sitting under a tree and talking about something else is another.
It is the same for the artists and musicians. We need a permanant arts and crafts school which anyone can attend, not something that other people come in and do for us for a fortnight once every two years. We need to get rid of the cars in Victoria Square and turn it into a cultural hub.
Whether you can teach people to write, create artworks or music is irrelevant. It is important that they have the opportunity to mix with those who do and perhaps be encouraged to try.
But, reading Alexander Downer this morning, I could not help thinking that he is right. Adelaide needs to change. It is not likely it will.