Sunday, June 17, 2007

Howard Hinton, Philanthropy and the New England Sense of Identity.

Painting: Howard Hinton, Philanthropist.

A little while a go marcel proust gave me a lead to a court case involving the Hinton Bequest, a collection of paintings given to the Armidale Teachers College. As I said in a later response to a comment by him, I do intend to do a story, but I have one other story to do first.

In my post A Chat with Friends 2 I mentioned the conversation that I had been having with anon in the comments section of Australia's Water Wars - Introduction. This is one of the nice things about past entries, the way they can lead to later conversations.

Anon's response was triggered by my comments on Minister Turnbull's attempt to grab the waters of the Clarence to provide water to Brisbane. She queried my assertion about New England and its sense of identity, suggesting that Clarence residents would not see things in the same way.

At the same time as this conversation was taking place, I had lunch with an old friend whose family has had a long connection with the New England Regional Art Museum, the current home of the Hinton paintings that were the subject of the court case.

We come from very different political traditions, she the Labor stream, me the New England populist tradition. Her father was Labor member for Armidale, my grandfather the Country Party member for the same seat. Yet we both share a common sadness at the way, at least as we see it, the achievements of the past have been progressively torn down. We have far more in common than the traditional party political divides would suggest.

Over time, I have been slowing building a range of material that deals with New England's history and its changing sense of identity, suggesting that the area has a story worth telling and preserving. Many of these series are incomplete and for the same reason, the absence of an overview piece to set a context for the discussion.

On several occasions I have started to write such a piece. However, the size of the task, the need to compress and present a sweeping story in compressed succinct blog form, has always defeated me.

Part of the problem here is that most of the building blocks for the story do not exist, in part because of the very decline that I am trying to address. New England's past has become submerged, lost.

King Canute's point to his courtiers was that no man could hold back the tides. It may be that New England itself has been lost for ever in the changes that have taken place in Australia, detritus from the past left lonely on a vacant unseen shore.

Despite all this, I still feel the need to keep trying. I have therefore decided to again attempt a piece on the New England blog that might at least provide an overall context for my own writings on the subject. Further, to discipline myself, I am not going to post on this blog until the piece is complete!

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