Something magical is happening.
The fires, the flooding, the sheer bringing together of communities, is making for a time of wonder and moving forward.
There is the most recent Vocal Muster started by Richard Lane as a training mechanism and performance outlet for young singers.
Then there is SHYAC a 28-year-old organisation for young performers and now about to move towards a second stage for those who are now older, yet wish to continue performing and training.
There is also SMS productions under the eye of Clare MacArthur Stanham, Melting Pot under the Conveynor status of Joshua Hewitt, Pigs Fly Productions created by Fiona Jowett and Lou Vella who bring one off theatre events to the region.
Not to be forgotten is Duende Productions bringing teaching and professional skills training, productions and development work, and Highlands Theatre Group now under the chairmanship of Steve Cheers - traditionally one of the longest running organisations in the Highlands.
They are changing much. New voices emerge often, but the above are hard 'n' fast professionals funding these organisations. They live in our Highlands and are determined to continue to so do.
But, there is one thing stopping them achieving the heights. Funding.
The supposed Regional Funding mechanism is partisan to say the least and gives a 'largesse' of around $5000. Wingecarribee Shire Council gives next to zero. Let's say 'marginal'.
I believe it is time to call the council to order, and its supposed arts representatives. The full time creators - who once did a fantastic job, have left, and shire is now reduced to the hands of someone in a two-day-a-week position.
It seems as though the council itself shows little understanding of the process of a program development, let alone the development of new work, on whatever level.
I would like to propose that our WSC, under the gaze of the mayor Duncan Gair - open their eyes and sees what is happening in our region. Painters, potters, sculptors, theatre, creators, musicians et al.
Those who make theatre, create theatre, writers of which are legion: Anne Beaumont and Lee Richie to name but two, who travel the world writing. Even Language Schools run by Jenny Pearce - shifted her home into classrooms and teaches multiple languages...is this not amazing?
Yet who are celebrated?
I am currently working with a young emerging writer, David Bermingham, from the ranks of SHYAC. You shall hear more of him soon and his astonishing work, of an age demographic of 18 - 25. How do you stay in the Highlands, and get 'fed'.
I have a thought Mayor Gair and councillors also. Is it not time to do something astonishing in this region? Create an arts festival? On the level of, as in Victoria: Castlemaine, Ballarat, Bendigo and others around NSW even up to Darwin.
A Spiegel Tent, find venues, even areas as The Empire, let alone the memorial hall - spaces where things can happen. A sit-down comedy venue at, say the Mittagong RSL and so forth.
A genuine Arts Festival - for the rough 'n' ready and the sheer professionals.
Now there is a way of putting the Southern Highlands on the map. As the saying goes, from small things big things grow.
I did a feature film here some years ago, Wishbone. We raised enough to make the film. It involved more than 300 locals and sponsors to get around $30,000.
The film brought together many people and most importantly brought together many friendships.
Written by Australian Film Industry winner and Academy Award nominee, Jonathan Hardy (vale) - it was amazing and brought the community entire together.
It took close to three years to finish. Yet we did. But it was the doing and the communing and friendships that were important...and now we need to move onto the next stage...
Growing eventually, perhaps into a sort of Edinburgh Festival, which grew from a few seeds, but now huge and people could come from everywhere.
It isn't all radical - it can be chamber music. But all is new and vital.
It can define our Highlands and genuinely give the Tourism and Economic Development group manager Steve Rosa and his team something to truly work with.
Pies and tulips are fine...and Steve has strongly driven these events, but let's give him something new to truly work with.
He and the team are great people - but pies and tulips are not the only things to define an area such as ours.
We have an Arts Trail - why not a genuine arts festival?
Mayor Duncan Gair and councillors can lobby far and wide and get funds, State and Federal.
We can get infrastructure as venues and even find venues - old sheds, the Milk Factory, tents, the Bradman venue, Exeter hall etc - there are so many venue option. Let's think laterally.
We have village halls. I have used Hill Top village hall many times and the people who caretake for this space are remarkable. Even Greta Scaachi has been here and loved it. She shall be back.
We all know people. John Waters, Geraldine Turner, conductor Brian Castles-Onions, Leo Sayer, master potter Bruce Pryor, major jazz/blues player Shane Pacey and formidable actors - forgive me if I leave out your names.
It is time to put our pulse on the map and this takes you, Mr Mayor, to breathe deep and genuinely do something that is fine and splendid and not just about development. For this is not growing an area, but diminishing it.
I believe it can be done, without all the creators having to put their hand in their pockets.
Create a fund - spend it on something to put us on the map. To enrich us.
- Dave Letch, Hill Top