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– by Elizabeth Abbott

Last Saturday’s gathering at The Front for the launch of Bizoo’s final issue played host to both a celebration of Bizoo’s past and to a creative meeting of minds. The evening featured performances from musicians and spoken word poets as well as a panel hosted by Dr Jerm of Bizoo. The panel, titled The State of DIY in Canberra 2013, discussed the practical obstacles and implementation of creative ideas with a particular focus on zines, but a broad view as to the arts community in general. Panel members came from across the arts spectrum and included Rosanna Stevens of Scissors Paper Pen, Danny Wild of Zonk Vision, Canberra comic artist Stuart McMillen, Samuel Tupou an artist and member of Bad Pharmer, Elouise of Smells Like Zines, Nat Clark of the Canberra Zine Emporium and Paul Summerfield a zine-maker/digital artist.

The panel remained tightly focused on the practical aspect of the arts scene: moving beyond thinking about doing things to actually doing them. It felt like sitting down with your own personal mentoring team, rather than with strangers on a panel. This environment allowed the achievements of each panel member to seem like realistic goals to aspire to, rather than lofty unobtainable ideals. While I’m aware this is a lot of praise to heap upon a singular panel that lasted only half an hour, the warmth and open dialogue between the panel and audience created a sense that putting thoughts into action was truly possible. Particularly, as one of The Front’s employees stated, Canberra is small enough that you can be a big fish in a little pond if you work hard enough.

The panel members overall were very energetic when it came to discussing how to improve on their own craft, often acknowledging the limitations of their own work: Rosie discussed the need to integrate more areas of Canberra into artistic involvement, rather than it remaining the exclusive domain of the inner north. This prejudice towards inner North venues for hosting arts events is clear – partly due to the concentration of fantastic venues and university students. But there was a real interest and drive into finding out how to better appeal to people from all over Canberra.

Issues of marketing were raised as a crucial issue facing any public creative endeavour. The limitations of social media were the most central part of this discussion: panellists found that messages often become white noise as there is too much going on. It seemed having a great poster advertising an event and not spreading oneself too thin were discussed as integral to success. At this stage, the lady working behind the bar (whose name I didn’t catch) offered some crucial insights as a venue employee – speaking to the effectiveness of posters and street art in advertising events.

The community nature of Canberra’s creative scene crystallised when discussion emerged around the potential for a communal creative space for those working in the arts. Recently, a creative space for entrepreneurs to work has opened in Civic (Entry 29) and this idea was mirrored with an audience member raising that a lease was possibly available in Garema Place, and could potentially serve as a space for Canberra’s art scene. The crowd and panel buzzed with discussion about the possibility of such a venue Danny from Zonk Vision spoke up and said ‘that’s it, I’m putting a signup list at the door, let’s do this.’

The weakest point of this event was the disappointing marketing done in the lead up. The panel was exciting and informative: a lot of people would have been interested but didn’t come due to a lack of awareness that it was happening. The event attracted people who are already engaged in the arts community, but it would also have been a great event for other enthusiastic Canberrans interested in producing content but not sure where to start. The Front should have been chaotically busy with all manner of people but unfortunately the event stayed under the radar for many.

While it had a disappointing turnout, the panel at the launch party for Bizoo’s book was inspiring and a great opportunity for those who attended to have a real discussion with people involved in DIY and how to get involved and improve on your own craft.

ElizabethElizabeth has previously published reviews of bars, nightclubs and art exhibitions online. She currently writes reviews and essays for TheSemicircle.wordpress.com and tweets from @elizabethivy_

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