Celebrating a decade of MUD Literary Club support for ‘grassroots’ writers during Adelaide Writers Week

It’s rare for arts philanthropists to be in the limelight, but such a literature-focused crowd is set to take center stage at Adelaide Writers’ Week.

The MUD Literary Club has supported two literary festivals in Adelaide and Ubud, Bali since 2012, sponsoring the appearance of big-name writers like Hannah Kent, Tim Winton, Lionel Shriver and Trent Dalton and connecting writers to new audiences.

Tony Parkinson, founding committee member and owner of Penny’s Hill Wines, said the group had filled a “niche” in literary funding, believing there was not enough philanthropic support for the arts in Australia.

“This is definitely an area that could benefit from more support, whether through government leadership or through broader community outreach, through schools or otherwise, in the long term.

“In Australia more often than not government contributions go to sectors that are not as needy as the arts, and in this case it is literature.”

MUD stands for Mates of Ubud (Bali), where the band also supports the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.

Support “core” writers

The non-profit group, which kicks off its 10th anniversary celebrations during this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week from Saturday, is hosting fundraising events with exclusive talks from sponsored writers.

“At the time [since starting]we have now raised over $200,000,” Mr. Parkinson said.

Tony Parkinson (right) at the 2019 Ubud Festival with cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi.(Provided: Tony Parkinson)

Since 2018, it has also offered the MUD Literary Prize for the best first Australian literary novel, which this year was awarded to Diana Reid for Love & Virtue.

“The award goes in that direction, but supporting the festival also encourages more sales activity.”

Lower funding for individual artists

Local author Hannah Kent will appear at Adelaide Writers Week to promote her new novel, Devotion, and to celebrate MUD’s birthday with other so-called ‘MUD friends’, including Christos Tisolkas, author of The Slap, and Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List.

She said the efforts of philanthropists were becoming increasingly important for the arts as government support – by far the most widespread form of funding in Australia – was declining for individual artists.

A woman in her late 30's with red hair and a small smile, staring at the camera
Hannah Kent appears at Adelaide Writers Week to promote her new book, Devotion.(Provided: Lauren Bamford)

“It’s been painful to watch it disappear over the past two years because it offers such high returns,” Ms Kent said.

“I also think it sends an incredible message to people that the arts are worthwhile and worthy of government funding.”

Ms Kent said her own experience with government funding had been largely positive, both while creating and maintaining the literary magazine Kill Your Darlings with Rebecca Starford from 2010 and with her first screenplay in production, Run Rabbit Run, which was supported by Screen Australia.

But she spoke fondly of her experience with the MUD Literary Club, both of her days as an emerging writer with the 2013 international bestseller Burial Rites and of an established and leading Australian voice today.

The club has its roots in Bali

Mr Parkinson said MUD took root in late 2011 when a major bank withdrew its funding for the Ubud festival.

“I was in Bali where we had a resort at the time, and I went to see Janet DeNeefe, the expat from Melbourne who started the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in 2004,” he said.

“The day I visited her she was particularly discouraged, which is not normal for Janet, and the reason was that a major bank had pulled a large cash sponsorship from her festival with about 10 weeks to go. make.”

A crowd of people stand on the stairs waving in front of an audience, surrounded by tropical plants
The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is held in the tropical surroundings of Bali.(Provided: Tony Parkinson)

Mr Parkinson originally planned to register his complex as accommodation for the festival, but ended up committing to finding an ongoing ‘drip’ of financial support.

After returning to Adelaide, Mr Parkinson spoke with his friend Sue Tweddell, who had family in Bali, if she wanted to be involved.

“Sue said she needed a project and was the driving force behind it,” Mr Parkinson said.

“But we also decided at that point at the start of the play to split the effort between Bali and Adelaide Writers Week.”

The MUD Literary Club: The 10th Anniversary will be chaired by David Sly during Adelaide Writers Week on Monday at the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden from 5pm.

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