Okay, here we go potential Clarionites, more questions you’d have never thought to ask…
How old are the Clarion attendees? (i.e. are they a bunch 0f twentysomethings running around and up to no good with each other during those ‘late night crit sessions’; or are they a bunch of boring old foges I won’t be able to relate to?)
Well, in 2005, we had a wide age-spread, from early twenties through to the full half century. The participant ages tended to be a fairly even spread, with the average being about thirty (give or take a couple of years either side). The more important thing is this didn’t matter so much when it came to socialising – everyone acts like a big bunch of goofs, which is cool.
Can you elaborate on the ‘up to no good’ bit?
Yes, yes I could. 😉 In fact, as far as fun and games, CS05 was pretty darn tame. The US Clarions are probably gaining more of a reputation for matchmaking during the workshop, but that’s what you get when you put a bunch of single twentysomethings together in a cramped dorm for six weeks. CS05ers were overwhelmingly en-coupled/en-spoused before when they started the workshop, and tended to stay that way.
So, a tight dorm, eh?
Yep! The accommodation for the first two Clarion Souths was a three storey cinder block (Stalag Clarion) on the Griffith University campus in Nathan, a suburb about 10kms south of the Brisbane CBD (and a quick bus ride to the bountiful Mt. Gravatt shopping centre). The campus surrounds are set amongst seemingly endless natural bushland, which gives the place that ‘Wolf Creek’ style of isolation. Not to mention the drop bears, Godzilla-like lizards, human-hunting giant spiders, and the notorious quill-shooting bush turkeys. Good times!
Anyway, back to the cinder block – the three storeys each have six-eights separate and lockable rooms (small, with a basic wardrobe, single bed, desk, chair, two shelves, and a fan supplied by the ever-thoughtful convenors). Each level has its own lounge area with a sofa, a couple of arm chairs, a TV (which I never watched, nor did most other people – too busy writing and all), and a dining room. The convenors also supplied a ‘Cletus’ for each room, a giant and very noisy air-conditioner. Despite the backwoods look, the Cletus is a godsend. The weather is HOT and STICKY. So sticky, it’s like drowning.
The lounge area opens onto a fully utensilled kitchen with an oven, two big fridges, and a microwave. Cutlery and cookware is provided, albeit a little shabby, but food is your own expense (more on this in a sec). Each level in the cinder block has a bathroom block with two toilets, two basins, and two showers.
The convenors may throw the occasional weekend BBQ, but the majority of your food will be BYO. Locals or people who brought cars are in heavy demand for shopping trips, which are big, bulky affairs, and often conducted 1-2 times per week. The Mt. Gravatt shopping is close by (about 3 minutes drive, or half hour walk, or ten minute bus ride). How you decide on which groceries to get is up to you. My floor (six people) generally paid equal shares and came up with a communal shopping list, with extras paid for by individuals. A piece of personal advice – just make sure, if you’re an unashamed meat eater like me, that you don’t end up on the vegetarian floor (unless you’re open to expanding your horizons!)
In 2005, we enacted a tradition of inviting the tutors to a ‘three course/three level’ dinner once per week (usually mid-week, when routine was in full swing). One floor cooked the mains for the tutor, the next floor did the dessert, and the last floor shared drinks. It was a great system – and rotated, so no one group had to cook six meals while another just had drinks. Thoroughly recommended, as this was one of the primary interactions with the tutors (as, at most other times, everyone is writing or critiquing, including the tutor).
What clothes should I pack?
As many as possible! Six weeks is an eternity on a lightly packed suitcase! Bring as much as you can, and a variety too! The majority of your packing should be light summer clothes. As I said, it’s hot and humid – DAMN hot and humid – especially if you’re not from such a climate. While at Clarion, my group also went out several times (restaurants and the Aurealis Awards), so a couple of outfits for such occasions are needed.
That’s enough for now. Leave a comment if you have a specific question. Part 3 will follow in several days.
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