Creative Toowoomba

Creative Toowoomba

Today a little about where I live, some may not think this is entirely fair, other may think I am being too fair on my town – that of Toowoomba.  Once known as the ‘gateway to the west’ as it is the last place of population before it was all small rural towns.  Now it is know as the ‘garden city’.  It features a lot of educational institutions – a university, TAFE, schools galore and private institutions.  Other industries include government offices, retail/service, with mining starting to emerge.
Traditionally, the town has been ruled by ‘old money’ and over the recent decades has been very conservative.  This has meant that it doesn’t have a thriving creative industry.  There are a  couple of radio stations, a couple of newspapers and magazines, the television station recently downsized its place in the area.  Given that there are a lot of schools and a university the young try to keep a culture alive through art, music and theatre but it is rare they stay beyond university.  The lure of a big city, a more open minded place with greater employment opportunities is usually too big.  In fact, if I were to look for another job in what I do, it would be unlikely that I could stay in Toowoomba.  Additionally, the tyranny of distance in Australia means that genuine networking and ability to pursue a creative passion in another city and live in Toowoomba or vice-versa is difficult.
Saying that, there are small grants (seemingly to be about $1000) to help creative events like music concerts or art events.
All is not lost though for people like me that may want to start a creative business in something like social media, public relations (which, while not a ‘creative industry’ is an art), serious news site or photography/videography – or a combination of it all.  To date, this has only really been done successfully in regional Australia by ABC with the ABC Open Producers – thanks to government funding.  How to make something something like this work through private funding is not so clear.  Does one run it primarily as a photography business plan or PR consultancy or otherwise?
Whatever you do, for creative industries there are a number of grants that are available – including arts grants, regional arts grants and even sponsorship grants.  Additionally, there are a number of small business grants that are available through government funds.  You can also access business planning sessions for free or little outlay.  However, it seems that angel funding or private funding for start-ups does not seem to exist in this area.  For this, like another job in my chosen profession, I would need to move – preferably to Sydney or Melbourne – to be in the centre of creativity and innovation.  Those are the centres of the tech giants in Australia.  For personal networking Brisbane – a couple of hours down the road has many clubs/groups.  Included in these is Business Communicators Queensland, Opportunite Brisbane and the Young Professionals Network to name but a few.  You make these when you can but it is difficult with work, life, study.
It is one of the reasons why I have chosen to take up further education – the opportunities to network with professionals in my field is slim in Toowoomba.  It is a nature of what Toowoomba is and has grown to be. 

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