THE future of Gippsland’s richest literary prize is more secure with an alliance between two of Bass Coast’s art groups.
Artspace Wonthaggi has agreed to auspice the Bass Coast Prize for Non-Fiction and to co-sponsor the 2021 prize.
ArtSpace vice-president John Mutsaers said a collaboration between the literary and visual arts would boost the arts in general within Bass Coast. The artists’ group is also considering running an art award in association with the writing prize.
It was established in 2019 and has run for the past two years, thanks to the sponsorship of Phillip Island writer Phyllis Papps, who wanted to encourage local writers of non-fiction in an age of dwindling options for mainstream publication.
Ms Papps said she was delighted at the partnership with the artists’ group. “What started off as just an idea has morphed into something wonderful. From little acorns oak trees grow ..."
The prize is open to writers living, working or studying in Gippsland, or who have a strong connection with the Gippsland region. It was launched by Australian author Thomas Kenneally at the 2019 Phillip Island Festival of Stories.
The inaugural prize in the 2019 competition attracted 42 entries, ranging from personal memoir and true adventure through to biography, natural history and local history.
Almost 100 people attended the prize giving at The Gurdies Winery in February 2020. With acclaimed Australian writer Don Watson (born in nearby Poowong) as guest speaker, this was a highlight of the writing/reading calendar in Gippsland.
The 2020 prize, which was brought forward to take advantage of the COVID-19 lockdown, received 44 entries. The judges awarded four major prizes and four entries were highly commended. These are currently being published in the Bass Coast Post.
The judges were delighted at the geographical spread of the winning writers, who came from Bass Coast, Baw Baw, East Gippsland and Melbourne. We also had a good age spread, with two younger writers sharing third place.
Of course the public recognition and prize money is a great boost for the winning writers, but our entrants have also commented how important it is to have something to aim for, and an assurance that someone is actually reading their work.
The auspicing agreement with BCAS will enable us to apply for grants to the Bass Coast Shire Council, Regional Arts Victoria and other public bodies.
We are also seeking to publish a limited edition book with the winning entries from the past two competitions along with selected works by Bass Coast artists.
Catherine Watson was a judge of the 2020 Bass Coast Prize for Non-Fiction.