An Indigenous Bookmaking Collective

The Woolloongabba Exemplars commune was on the western shore of Lake Weyba amidst the now rural residential area of Doonan. In 1894, about 200 people, led by a deeply religious land surveyor, George Chale Watson, (Heather Blakey’s Great Grandfather) established this socialist utopia where everything would be owned collectively, and each would work for their common good.

Taller Leñateros is Mexico’s first and only Tzotzil Maya book- and papermaking collective. Founded in 1975 by the Mexican-American poet Ambar Past, the workshop is dedicated to documenting and disseminating the endangered Tzotzil language, culture, and oral history. Read Jessica Vincents piece about this wonderful collective at Atlas Obscura.

“I hadn’t been walking long before I spotted an unusual sign outside a sad-looking, graffitied colonial house: a black-and-white etching of an ancient Maya riding a bicycle, wearing an enormous feathered headdress that fluttered in the wind behind him. Next, to it, a handwritten note pleaded “Save our workshop!”
Jessica Vincent

When I consider that my Great Grandfather established one of the earliest Australian collectives at Lake Weyba in Queensland I am not so surprised that, over the years, I have been drawn to create collectives. Unlike my Great Grandfather, I have been happy to build castles in the air and to create places, such as the Soul Food Cafe and Bancroft Manor,  in cyberspace.

Articles about other collectives, such as the bookmaking collective in San Cristobel de las Casa fuel my imagination and help me visualize what I can see Bancroft Manor becoming. When I began to build Soul Food I approached artists so that they could help me fill the walls with imagery like that which can still be found on the site. As I wander back through the corridors of Soul Food I am in awe of the number of artists and writers who responded and gave so generously.

Within Jessica Vincent’s article about the bookmaking collective are evocative descriptions of her first impression of this collective. For example, she explains how “intrigued, I pushed open the unlocked wooden gate and stepped inside. The walls of the courtyard, though peeling and rotten with damp, popped with floor-to-ceiling splashes of orange, green, and yellow block prints”.

As I write imagery flashes before me. It is as if I can hear my Great Grandfather’s voice encouraging me to succeed where he faltered.  I dream of visiting places like this collective in Mexico and I can see what Bancroft is becoming, especially as artists and writers find their way here.

Entering the Bancroft Estate

There are many awesome and spectacular fantasy worlds that have been created, depicted through books, movies and games. The truly amazing, surreal paintings by Jacek Yerka capture my imagination.

It was Virginia Wolfe whose idea of a room of her own captured the imagination of thousands. Bancroft Manor lies within a fantasy world somewhere in cyberspace. It is a place where those who take up residence can have the dream room, apartment, outbuilding, or treehouse of their own.
Heather Blakey

When Katharina Rapp made the journey and approached the Bancroft Estate these were the gates that greeted her. It didn’t take her long. She now has settled into Studio Rapp.

Celebrating Collaborative Creativity

The Rookery was the final Advent Calendar that was published by Heather Blakey when she operated the Soul Food Cafe. It celebrated the collaborative work of artists and writers who had inhabited the site and worked collaboratively between 2002 – 2010. Previous Advent Calendars also celebrated the work of patrons who willingly inhabited this cyber sanctuary. Here at Bancroft Manor residents will also be given the opportunity to have their work featured and preserved. Copyright remains with each artist and writer.

A Piper Called Them

In another time and another place the piper called and travellers came. Can you, like Alice be tempted to follow the rabbit and see where it takes you?

Soul Food Bumper Catalogue of Creativity

Come away, oh human child! To the waters and the wild (W.B. Yeats) … Experience a realm of mystical beings who are a part of the magic and beauty of nature. Dare to enter the wondrous Real of Faerie. There are many mysterious and fascinating paths to follow in this enchanting realm. Choose to the left and dare to enter a wondrous realm full of magic and beauty…
by Edwina Peterson Cross

When the piper called them artists and writers conjured many versions of the portal that led to the Cave of the Enchantress and Lemuria. What would you pack for the journey? How would you find your way into the fantasy world of Bancroft Manor?

Through the Enchanted Doorway
A journey of the Heart

My journey began long before I knew I was looking for something. One night I received an email asking me if I was ready to…

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Autoethnography – My Life As a Writer

Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research in which an author uses self-reflection and writing to explore anecdotal and personal experience and connect this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings.

Evocative Autoethnography

Begin by thinking about your life as a writer and then consider refining these questions to flesh out other aspects of your life.

Write the story of your life as a writer. Write creatively, focusing on as many concrete events as you can. Give your story a beginning, middle and an ending. Make your story interesting by some of what has happened in dialogue and scenes rather than telling about it in ‘this happened, then this’ fashion.

Include memories of childhood and adolescent writing experience. Do you remember being taught how to write? What principles were you taught? By whom? Where did you write? Do you recall any products of your early writing experiences? What made you like or dislike writing?

When you write now, how do you feel? What emotions circulate through your body? Do you feel as if you are a subjectively or emotionally different person when you are writing? Characterize these differences?

Is writing a rational, emotional or spiritual experience for you? Explain or specify. Do you feel compelled to write or do you avoid writing as much as possible? Describe the best and worst writing experiences of your life. What made each memorable?

How do you write? Where do you write these days? Is writing integrated into your daily routines? Do you write every day or only when you must? What are your work habits as a writer? How do you get started? From what sources do you draw inspiration to write? How many drafts do you typically write? Do you write with the door open or closed? In restaurants, bars, or coffee shops? What is your ideal writing environment? How do you organize your space for writing? With whom do you share what you write?

What are your revising or rewriting habits or patterns? How do you evaluate your own work? Do you have someone to rely on as an editor, critic or writing buddy?

How do you know when you have finished writing a particular piece?   Do you act “professional” as a writer? What does “acting professional as a writer” mean to you?  What forms of writing are you engaged in, e.g, poetry, journalism, short stories, memoir? Which do you enjoy most? Why?

What are your hopes and aspirations as a writer? What are your fears and apprehensions? What kind of future do you envision as a writer? What would you like to accomplish? What will you need to do to achieve this goal?

What obstacles are in the way of your writing? To what extent do you get distracted by social media, e-mail, text messaging and phone calls? How can these distractions be overcome? Do your family members and/or friends understand the importance of writing to you? Are you able to keep them from disturbing you while you are working?

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

This course offers residency for creatives who are willing to step into a parallel univers and enjoy the stimulation of working alongside kindred spirits. Initially the group will take up residence in Bancroft Manor, a residence established by the somewhat mysterious Georgina McClure, who has been inspired, not only to build castles in the air but to provide a sanatorium environment to protect and strengthen the creative flame.

Setting Out for Bancroft Manor

Close your eyes. Trust that the space you are going to make will be sacred. Now take three deep breaths.

Inhale Exhale

Inhale Exhale

Inhale Exhale

With a final inhale and exhale release any fear about coming to Bancroft Manor. Like the Land of Get What You Want in the Magic Faraway Tree, Bancroft Manor meets the personal needs of each resident.

Breath in and out and release any remnants of doubt.

Now visualise a long path stretching before you. It may pass through a dark wood but it gradually winds up a gravel path towards the top of a hill. At some point, you see a very old iron gate. The gate is locked and vines cover it. As you reach within your pocket you find the very key that is needed to open this gate. Place the key in the lock, turn it and wait as the gate swings open.

You thought that Bancroft Manor was abandoned but you find yourself in a garden. It may be an Italian garden or perhaps something you would find in Japan. It may be any garden of your choosing. Take in all the details. Look at the flowers! Note the old trees and check out the one with a seat underneath it. Just ahead lies Bancroft Manor, a house you recognize, a place that you know. Take a moment to visualize it in all its glory.

You reach the front door but it is locked! Happily you find another key in your pocket. Visualize this key! Take a deep breath and open the door. As you enter take in the overwhelming feeling that you have arrived at a safe place, a place where your creative spirit will flourish. Slowly and with purpose go to what you know is your room. Perhaps it has a tiny door that you have to slip through. Take in all the details of the door and then scan the room to see what is still inside. A large desk overlooks the garden. You sit and open a draw, take out pen and paper and look at the virgin paper that lies in front of you.

Capture your thoughts and feelings as you arrive and return to the space you know so well.

Member Responses

Almurta Arrives at Bancroft Manor

Almurta Settles Into Bancroft

Almurta Goes Exploring

The Journey Started Somewhere

She Wolf’s Journey Begins

First Steps and a Key

Entering the Bancroft Estate