I drove to Dunedin from my crib this morning. The sea views along the way are spectacular. The occasion? It was 'Meet the Fellows'The four Arts Fellows for Otago University talked about what they did and what they hoped to achieve during their term and after.
And here I apologise, I forgot to write down the name of the chairman who managed the whole show extremely well, opening with a quote from Charles Brasch about Universities helping people push the boundaries, then he let each Fellow talk with a minimum of leading questions.
The first was Robbie Ellis, Music Fellow. He is creating a piece for symphony orchestra, pipe organ and drum kit, He is a well groomed, personable young man who spoke well about letting the musicians who perform the work (in his words)'really go to town on it'. He wants to expand his audience by making his work accessible to interested people.
Then James Norcliffe, children's writing fellow, told us that living in Robert Lord' s cottage he had "gained three children's books and lost 1 1\2 stone." He is writing a story about a fantasy writer who is writing a story, His researches turned up some interesting facts about the lob lolly pine, and he likes to have the whole story in his head before he write, but he found that while walking from the Lord cottage to the University, all sorts of ideas kept occurring to him.
2012 Burns Fellow, Emma Neale, who organises Poets Corner in the O.D.T. and is a formidable poet and writer herself,is working on a sequence of related poems. She keeps her audience (readers) in mind as a way of working out what she thinks about the world.
Nick Austen describes himself as a studio based artist is looking for a way to bind his collection of ideas.He says, "Ï would like to be an artist who can make work from a dream."
The afternoon was interesting,four artists, two of them very young,describing their work with passion and intelligence.
The audience's questions were predictable, "How did an artist know when a work was finished?"Did they have difficulty letting go of ownership?"careful questions which gave Fellows a chance to expand their ideas.
Now the last question was so convoluted and , to me, REPUGNANT, I might not have it exactly right.The 'lady'asking the question reminded the Fellows that the 'Professional Classes'had made their fellowships possible, and how would they maintain their role in sustaining a functioning society?'
Professional Classes was mentioned at least four times. The inference being that only professional classes can appreciate the arts and support it.
Really? I wanted to ask her - what about that Scottish ploughman after whom the Poetry Fellowship is named; or that London stable boy who wrote The Eve of St Agnes and other poems of pristine beauty; or those four teenagers who turned music on its head? Does learning to spend one's life drilling teeth, extracting appendixes, designing things,finding loopholes in legal documents, does that qualify one to pass judgment on a poem, a symphony, a painting, a book?
She did not speak like a 'ten pound pom' but that is how her words came across.
I was brought up in the days when people believed New Zealand was the 'social laboratory of the world' building a classless functioning society.