Writer and trade unionist wins key arts prize
15 January 2008
Perth-based Bryn Griffiths, whose career is distinguished by a commitment to the principle of giving all Australians the right to access the arts, has received the Community Cultural Development Board's 2004 Ros Bower Memorial Award.
'As an artsworker, Bryn played a vital role in helping people to think critically about their experiences, particularly their working life, through art,' said Community Cultural Development Board (CCDB) Chair Mr Chris Tassell.
'He brought poetry, plays and music to factories, shipyards, hospitals and mining camps. As a writer, he documented these experiences in poetry and prose and founded his own publishing house to encourage community writing,' said Mr Tassell.
In 1976, two years after migrating from Wales and settling in Perth, Mr Griffiths was elected inaugural Arts Officer to the Trades and Labor Council (TLC) of Western Australia. The position was funded by the Community Arts Board (precursor to the current CCDB) and was one of the first of such positions in Australia. Whether it was workers in remote line camps sharing an evening with a folk band or a classical music concert at Midland Railway Workshops, the TLC Arts Programme covered all the industrial areas of the state.
Mr Griffiths was later appointed writer-in-residence with the Australian Merchant Navy as a result of an Australia Council Art and Working Life program grant. Over six months, he wrote about shipboard life, conducted writing workshops and spent much of the time recording the experiences of the crew; captured in his published book Sea Poems.
In 1987, Mr Griffiths was commissioned to write an industrial history of the Waterside Workers' Federation. Wharfies (1989) includes words of the wharfies themselves--a tale of solidarity of working class commitment in the protection of their rights.
Shortly after his review Towards an Alternative Press (1987) recommending a state-funded publishing house to support community writing, Mr Griffiths founded and funded his own small publishing house, Platypus Press.
Since 1981, the Australia Council's CCDB has offered the annual Ros Bower Memorial Award to recognise distinguished effort in fostering and furthering the principles espoused by Rosalie (Ros) Bower, founding director of the Community Arts Board.
Mr Griffiths was presented with the award this afternoon by former Chair of the Australia Council Professor Margaret Seares.