The pull of the centre

By Meg Hill

The Emerging Writers’ Festival (EWF) returns to Melbourne in June, with over 300 artists participating in more than 70 events around the City of Melbourne area.

It’s another event in the repertoire of our UNESCO-listed City of Literature. Melbourne was the second in the world to be listed in 2008. 

The designation was made with recognition including initiatives, educational programmes, the urban environment, libraries, bookstores, cultural centres and hosting festivals like the EWF.

Most of this is assembled in the CBD and the inner city. Unfortunately, the concentration of well-funded and supported literature initiatives doesn’t stretch equally out to the suburbs.

Alistair Baldwin, a 23-year-old writer and comedian, is appearing in three events at the EWF. He moved to Melbourne just after his 18th birthday.

“I’m from Perth originally but I applied to do a Bachelor of Screenwriting at VCA in Southbank,” he said.

“Within the space of two months I graduated high school, turned 18 and moved here to Southbank.”

The Melbourne characteristics attributed in its City of Literature designation were the draw card for Alistair, but he had further cause to move to the centre of the city. 

“I famously want to be close to things,” Alistair said, referring to his muscular dystrophy condition which causes him to wear leg braces.

“I did my Bachelor at VCA and I lived like three blocks away, and then I did an Honours degree there.”

“And the fifth year I started getting work at the ABC, and their Southbank studio was two blocks away.”

Alistair works writing, and sometimes acting, for The Weekly and Hard Quiz, and previously for Get Krack!n.

While living in Southbank he was also awarded a Hot Desk Fellowship at the Wheeler Centre in the CBD, hosted Lemon Comedy at queer Fitzroy bookshop Hares and Hyenas, performed at various other events and written for SBS, ACMI Ideas, Archer and more.

Last year he also participated in the City of Literature’s mock parliament. He wrote a speech about moving to Melbourne to become a writer.

“I wrote about moving to Melbourne and how so many of the opportunities I’ve been fortunate enough to have, have been directly because I made the move from Perth where it’s much smaller and there’s not as much opportunity, especially in TV,” he said.

“But then also sort of balancing that with the thought ‘well I shouldn’t have had to move to be a writer.

 “There’s people who don’t have the luxury to moving interstate and having a family friend with a Southbank apartment you can move into.”

He said the idea of talent or genius is “kind of bullshit”, and reality has more to do with potential, access and luck.

“Because Melbourne is Australia’s City of Literature, does that mean that Melbourne owes something to all the other cities that don’t have the arts infrastructure Melbourne has?”

Alistair will be appearing in the EWF’s Work in Progress, First Stage and Late-Night Lit events.

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