Sunday, March 20, 2011


This particular group of friends included Heather Clarke, Steve Grimwade, Kathryn Hamman, Jennifer Harrison, Libby Hart, Kris Hemensley, Ray Liversidge. There were several apologies; in addition as many other people prefer to be in email contact. My report is going out to this variety of friends of Collected Works Bookshop. In addition it will be posted on the Collected Works Bookshop Facebook Page and my Poetry & Ideas blog. (Touch all bases!) Please feel free to send it on.

The non-exclusive nature of this group was reiterated. We consider you all good friends of Collected Works Bookshop. Long may this remain!

Lots of water under the bridge since the initial rallying to the cause in October, November, December '10.
For one thing, John Hunter's creation of the Collected Works Bookshop Facebook Page has proved an invaluable means of communication, especially for publicising the book launches & readings at the Shop. It's also a reflection of the Shop's tone & colour. Readers, writers interacting with the Shop around events, books & ideas.
And the huge success of the pre-Christmas shopping/raffle/auction/benefit (8th December, '10) is still resonating; e.g., although there wasnt & isnt a debt involved, the sum raised on that glorious night allowed us to begin the new year in a better financial position than for some while past.
The higher rent has now kicked in, so whilst the very necessary restocking of the shelves continues we are keeping an eye on the higher outgoings.

The 8th December event reminded us that in the '80s & '90s, Collected Works Bookshop used to hold a Christmas Party. In recent times we have served Xmas Cake (Sheila Anderson's to begin with, Clementa O'Brien's more recently) & Port in the last couple of weeks of December; but we feel an actual event should return to our calendar! This is an 'action' for which we're all enthusiastic & will now begin to plan it.

An idea fielded at the initial Friends meeting, at Jenny Harrison's house on the 21st November, '10, was that of a "Big Read". Philip Salom & Jenny were its proponents, endorsed by the rest of us. Since then, Ian McBryde has made the same suggestion. We well remember the event organized by Ian & Ken Smeaton, summer 2003, which celebrated the Shop's successful move from 256 Flinders Street to the Nicholas Building. (It was one of two important community initiatives : the other being the very deep hat Barry Hill sent around to colleagues which was to offset the Shop's removal costs. And how! Barry's original petition graces the Shop notice-board.) At the big read ('read a poem, buy a book') a multitude of poets, across the poetry community, read for their supper, everyone bought a book, & the Shop catered. It was a great event and might yet be a model again. (Photos of many of the contributors to the event are permanently on view in the Shop.)

The thinking behind holding such an event acknowledges the ever vulnerable economic reality of such an enterprise as Collected Works Bookshop. It also offers a very simple remedy. As Steve Grimwade reasoned, the $$ figures we're talking about are relatively small. We trust to the average cash-flow continuing, but the injection of a few thousand dollars (via one or two events a year) goes a long way to ensuring the Shop's viability. Naturally we're all aware of the Borders/A & R crash & its reverberations.

At yesterday's (19th March) meeting I was at pains to define & re-present our project. The point about Collected Works is that it isnt just another bookshop (although at a rude survival level it is)!
Collected Works Bookshop survives & thrives today as the expression of an idea articulated in the early 1980s, by a group of Melbourne writers, editors & small publishers, on behalf of & enrolling the support of the writing community, to establish a bookshop which would stock local Melbourne & Australian literature (especially poetry) in a context of world literature. Kathryn Hamman & Libby Hart's specific reference to the current bookshop as reflective of (the) community & important to it, is gratifyingly consonant with Collected Works' original impetus.
It has always been a writers & readers interjection into the mainstream book trade. The Shop, therefore, is the space where these particular interactions occur : writers with each other (for information & exchange), writers with readers, the small press with the commercial mainstream, local literature with the world.

Collected Works is a special place. Steve asked me what it was Collected Works sought from its organizational colleagues (as it were). Fair question : it's common knowledge now that we were graciously & generously invited to consider relocating to the Wheeler Centre, but declined. Independence is an issue for Collected Works notwithstanding the fact that all of the Wheeler Centre's residents are independent. For Collected Works, though, a geographical independence is necessary. As supportive as we are of the Centre for Books & Writing, & for that matter, of the City of Literature, Collected Works believes in locational & logistical diversity. Collected Works is its own eccentric self but also a friend, even a potential satellite of & for larger entities like the Victorian Writes Centre, Australian Poetry, Wheeler, MWF et al.
So what we seek is support for the continuing existence of the bookshop assuming the acknowledgment of our historical status & continuing value as a writers' & readers' space. Although it's a fact that Collected Works is mentioned in the UNESCO City of Literature document & referred to in accounts of the contemporary Australian poetry scene, history is often dismissed or forgotten. Believing we're still relevant in this day & age, we'll endeavour to keep Collected Works in mind & in view!

The Shop hasnt had as busy a calendar of launchings & readings for many years as now. Some of this is the result of presses & individuals identifying with the Shop in its hour of need, & some the serendipity of a normal year. There are three events to come in March, more in May, June, July... (In April I plan to visit family & friends in the UK for a couple of weeks; Retta will keep the Shop open.)

The meetings in future will be occur on a needs basis. Obviously, this can be triggered by the Shop or the community. However, email, telephone & personal contact is expected & invited.

Thank you to everyone for your support hitherto & ongoing commitment.

Love & best wishes, on behalf of Collected Works,
Kris Hemensley

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