Farewell Metro Arts

Tutor and student, plotting...

As part of the QWC Christmas Party on Thursday night, we said ‘farewell’ to the Metro Arts building in Edward Street. The building itself isn’t going anywhere, of course; it’s QWC that’s moving across the river and into the future that is the State Library in Brisbane’s cultural precinct at Southbank. I’m doing my best not to equate warped, timber floorboards, brick walls made softer by thick white paint and scary stairs with the Centre. It’s the people that make it special, not an old building.
The Metro Arts iteration of QWC is the only one I’ve ever known and I feel revoltingly nostalgic. Charm is relative. I only visited the Centre, attending workshops and seminars; I didn’t have to work there. The first time I hauled my sorry ass up those stairs, it took me a full minute to catch my breath. A very patient woman waited, pen poised over a list of names, wondering when I’d get around to speaking mine aloud instead of hanging on the door, panting.

I learned to have food and drink with me so I didn’t have to leave the building during the lunch break. Then I learned to get off my sorry ass and get fit enough the stairs didn’t nearly kill me every time I was there.    

The QWC offices were refurbished in a way that dispelled any sense of neglect; smart glass doors, the multi-coloured spread of packed bookshelves around a lounge, a homely rug on the unpainted, unpolished floorboards. I always felt welcome. I always wondered, too, who was just behind the drooping curtain between the teaching space and the office area. Did our chatting and raucous laughter disturb an important train of thought, or was someone listening in, enjoying the sounds of writers getting to know and love their craft?    

So, last night, I walked the floorboards one last time, breathed the warehouse-smell emanating from the old bricks and beams, and said goodbye. I’ll have fond memories: the way the Story Bridge was reduced to a beautiful abstract by the malformed panes of glass in the classroom window; the gentle silence that fell on the whole space as people wrote, pens making sticky noises on foolscap, laptop keys clicking, the sound of Minties being unwrapped and quietly masticated. Yeah…good times.     

I’m looking forward to the new hotness that will be QWC 2010.    

Merry Christmas QWC and a Shiny New Year.    

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