Dr Cath Keenan Sydney Story Factory Interview


Dr Cath Keenan Sydney Story Factory Interview

Dr Cath Keenan Sydney Story Factory Interview

Biennial fundraising exhibition to raise funds for creative writing centre for marginalised children.

Over 50 of Australia and New Zealand's leading contemporary artists will donate artworks to the Sydney Story Factory biennial fundraising exhibition and auction. The exhibition, If You Can Tell a Story, will feature artworks by Del Kathryn Barton, Fiona Lowry, James Powditch, Reg Mombassa, Blak Douglas, Euan Macleod, Tony Albert, Narelle Autio, Joshua Yeldham, Abdul Abdullah and the recent Archibald Prize winner, Mitch Cairns.

Founded in Redfern (Sydney) in 2012 by Dr Cath Keenan and Tim Dick, the Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people who are Indigenous and from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds – those most at risk of losing confidence in their writing abilities and switching off at school.

A former journalist, arts writer, literary editor and 2016 Australian of the Year Local Hero, Dr Keenan turned her back on her career to help nurture talent and creativity of thousands of marginalised primary and high school students. Since 2012, from their current base in Redfern, the Sydney Story Factory has enrolled more than 10,500 young people aged 7-17 to develop literacy skills.

'We believe that all Australian young people, no matter their background, should be given opportunities to develop the communication skills and flexibility of thinking that will allow them to live their lives to their full potential and flourish in a rapidly changing world," says Dr Keenan, Executive Director, Sydney Story Factory.

'The exhibition begins a wonderful discussion around words, images and, of course, creativity – which is at the heart of everything the Sydney Story Factory does" continued Dr Keenan.

James Powditch, finalist in the Moran Prize 2016 with a portrait of Dr Keenan and frequent Archibald Prize finalist says 'The Sydney Story Factory changes the lives of marginalised young people through creative writing and storytelling. I'm thrilled to be able to offer an artwork that could potentially help thousands more children benefit from the program".

2014 Archibald Prize winner, Fiona Lowry, says 'being able to express your creativity in a nourishing and supportive environment like the Sydney Story Factory is incredibly powerful for young people".

The exhibition runs from Wednesday 30 August – Saturday 2 September at BackStage, behind Conny Dietzschold Gallery, 99 Crown Street, East Sydney (entry via Crown Lane.

Artwork will be for sale by silent auction in the gallery and online from 10am 18th of August at www.32auctions.com/ifyoucantellastory Bidding closes at 5.00pm on Saturday 2 September.

Over the past six years, the exhibitions have raised $150,000 for the Sydney Story Factory. All proceeds from this year's auction will be used to fund the Sydney Story Factory's free creative writing programs in Redfern and the new Parramatta centre which is due to open in 2018.

The Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people. It was founded in Redfern (Sydney) in 2012 by Dr Cath Keenan and Tim Dick. Dr Keenan leads the Sydney Story Factory as executive director, and in 2016 she was named Australian of the Year Local Hero - a wonderful acknowledgement of the amazing creative community hub that her hard work and vision have created.

At the Sydney Story Factory we believe that all Australian young people, no matter their background, should be given opportunities to develop the communication skills and flexibility of thinking that will allow them to live their lives to their full potential and flourish in a rapidly changing world.

Our priority is marginalised young people - those most at risk of losing confidence in their writing and switching off at school. We light the spark of creativity and help them find their voice.

Programs are for young people aged 7 to 17, in primary and high school, and are designed by creative writing and literacy experts to:

improve young people's written and oral communication skills;
enhance self-confidence and self-efficacy;
nurture creativity and empathy; and
deepen engagement with learning.

Young people leave our creative writing workshops equipped with the skills and confidence essential for future success.

For more information visit www.sydneystoryfactory.org.au


Interview with Dr Cath Keenan, Co-Founder and 2016 Australian of the Year Local Hero

Question: Can you tell us about the upcoming Sydney Story Factory biennial fundraising exhibition?

Dr Cath Keenan: The exhibition features over 50 artworks donated by some of Australia's leading artists, including Del Kathryn Barton, Fiona Lowry, Euan Macleod, Tony Albert, Abdul Abdullah, Bronwyn Bancroft, Reg Mombassa and the recent Archibald Prize winner, Mitch Cairns.


Question: What can attendees expect from the exhibition?

Dr Cath Keenan: Some amazing artworks, all of which have a lovely story behind them.


Question: Can you share the names of the leading contemporary artists who have donated their artwork to this fundraiser?

Dr Cath Keenan: In addition to the above: James Powditch, Ian Grant, Narelle Autio, Locust Jones, Jasper Knight, and many more.


Question: What is the Sydney Story Factory?

Dr Cath Keenan: We are a not-for-profit that runs free creative writing and storytelling workshops for young people aged 7 to 17, particularly those from marginalised backgrounds. Under the guidance of our expert storytelling team, young people work with volunteer tutors to write stories of all kinds, which we publish in as many ways as we can. Young people leave with the skills and confidence essential for future success.


Question: What inspired you to create the Sydney Story Factory?

Dr Cath Keenan: We were inspired by a creative writing centre for kids called 826 Valencia in the US. But more generally, I think I wanted to open the SSF because I have always loved reading and writing, and know how important it is to help children find their own voice.


Question: How will the money from this fundraiser be used?

Dr Cath Keenan: To run our free creative writing and storytelling programs for marginalised young people from our Redfern centre, and from our new Parramatta centre that will open next year.


Question: Can you share a success story from someone who enrolled at the Sydney Story Factory?

Dr Cath Keenan: There are so many! One of our favourites is a young woman called Yarrie, who came when we first opened, and used poetry to help process many of the terrible events she witnessed during the civil war in her home country, Sierra Leone. She is a fantastic writer and has grown into a truly extraordinary young woman, and a powerful advocate for the role of writing in helping to overcome trauma.


Question: How can Australians support the Sydney Story Factory?

Dr Cath Keenan: By bidding on artworks in our show (they will all be online from August 18th at www.32auctions.com/ifyoucantellastory) or by going to www.sydneystoryfactory.org.au/donate and becoming a regular giver. By giving just $30 a month, you can cover the place of a marginalised child in one of our fantastic creative writing workshops.


Question: What do you hope to achieve in the next year at the Sydney Story Factory?

Dr Cath Keenan: We will continue to work with up to 2,500 young people this year from our Redfern centre, with around 28% Indigenous and 35% from language backgrounds other than English. But our big new goal is to open a second centre in Parramatta in May 2018, to allow us to run even more programs across Greater Western Sydney. This will allow us to double the number of young people we see in the next three years.


Interview by Brooke Hunter


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