This week Artfiles catches up with Katherine Knight who is preparing to launch her book Passion Purpose Meaning - Arts Activism in Western Sydney in March.
Who is Katherine Knight?
I came to live in the Parramatta area in 1967 and worked at Parramatta Psychiatric Centre as an occupational therapist. With the birth of my three children in the 1970s, I became deeply involved in my local community – setting up volunteer programs for children and lobbying for better facilities. Nationally, it was a time of great change and there was an exciting atmosphere that with collaboration and hard work, you could make a real difference. My focus moved quite quickly from the local, to the wider Parramatta area and then the whole of western Sydney, though it was never a planned evolution.
What was it like?
Parramatta in those years was very resistant to change and it became clear that without pressure from a wider region, nothing would happen. The Australia Council’s field officer in 1974 made links across art forms and organisations and I became involved. People were often isolated from their families and each other in the rapidly expanding new suburbs and boredom was a major issue. From publishing little local newsletters and press releases for local newspapers about our activities, by 1984 I found myself publishing a monthly “newspaper” Artswest. It caught the attention of Cumberland Newspapers (now NewsLocal) and for four years Artswest was a monthly supplement to nine local newspapers, giving us a monthly circulation of 482,000. Yes, that was the real total. By now, Artswest Foundation was operating as a regional network supporting and promoting the arts through publication, consultancy and advocacy – frequently on the smell of an oily rag.
How do you approach working on a project like writing and publishing your book, Passion Purpose Meaning - Arts Activism in Western Sydney?
I think from the earliest years I realised that I was witnessing wonderful stories of creativity and determination that were going unrecognised. Somehow I should try to record or retain as much information as possible. I did a masters degree in history in the 1990s and shortly before I retired in 2003, a conversation with leading arts worker Jenny Bisset crystalised my thinking. With hindsight, I’m glad the whole project took 10 years. There were many interruptions, but I needed time to reflect, seek advice, and review the management of such a vast subject. I wanted to write in conversational style that was easy for anyone to read. MORE