I’m writing this month’s conversation while being in the middle of a two-week road trip across regional NSW. This is to deliver our second in-person workshops with the women who are participating in our Work of Art program. It is such a pleasure to be spending time with the fabulous cohort of women who are working in creative ways. We have over 60 women from all over the state, from Moree and Mullumbimby to Mathoura on the Murray (sorry – got a bit too carried away with alliteration there!) as well as Broken Hill to the Bega Valley. We have women working in visual arts, music, theatre, dance, screen, writing, design, photography, circus and community development. We’re very grateful to Women NSW – part of the NSW Government – for funding this pilot program.

Assisting these women in their creative businesses does raise questions about what are the challenges of being a woman working in the regions across the cultural and creative industries, but at the same time the program has been an affirmation of talent, dedication and sisterhood. We know that being regional raises issues of distance, isolation, access to markets, opportunities for training and access to career pathways. Problems with digital connection have not been completely eradicated in regional NSW and now the effects of climate change and the need to find sustainable approaches has compounded the barriers experienced by regional artists. Add to this a whole set of gender specific challenges that still have impacts on women, and we have what can seem like a difficult set of circumstances.

But watching the ways in which the women in our cohort are finding their place in their regional settings, and seeing the way in which all of these women are achieving in their own ways, this trip has brought home to me again the richness of being a creative practitioner in a regional setting. Whether it’s the inspiration of the landscape, the interaction of community, the sense of space or the deep-rooted history of the places in which we live and work, regional NSW is an amazing place to be. Sense of place is often a driver of innovation and creativity in the arts. It’s important that we keep supporting our regional places to be all that they can be, to understand that being regional is often a balancing game of pros and cons and we need to make sure that the disadvantages experienced by creative practitioners in non-metropolitan parts of NSW do not outweigh the benefits we enjoy by being regional.