Presentation evening for Professional Writing and Editing, Chadstone Campus, Holmesglen TAFE. The night of nights, the gala of galas. Red and white wine in cardboard casks. Plastic cups almost thin enough to be rubber gloves, or worse, prophylactics. Stubbies in a bin with two bags of ice for company. The empty stubby box makes a practical bin. Chips, nuts and homemade sandwiches, spread on a makeshift buffet of desks. The agenda is unclear, and we sit and chat, waiting for something to happen.
People come and go, but more come than go, until everyone is there. Old friendships are rekindled. People not in my class from 2011, but I knew from 2010, or earlier. Writers come in all ages. There are students straight from secondary school, and students old enough to be my parent, and I’m not so young... I meet the thirty-two year old daughter of one of my fellow students.
Eventually one of the teachers marshals order, and we get underway. We say farewell to two teachers, both with long tenures. Two teachers, from a small group of eight. The course will be less without them, but somebody will step forward to take an opportunity. Tears flow as people remember their friendship and classroom inspiration.
A bucket is passed around for all to contribute a gold coin or two.
There is performance on offer, and first up is a music video from one of the students. It looks great, but the sound isn’t working. A student pops up to help, but to no avail. We scratch that item from the agenda.
Awards are given out. A book, a bottle of wine, and a Slurpee voucher from 7-11.
Each award is accompanied by a description of the achievement. This student has produced poems of great character, or descriptions of beauty, or achieved the highest academic results. The words drip from the lips of each teacher, superlatives and platitudes, recycled, no doubt used before, but each award accepted with pride and a kiss and a hug. Applause from the eighty people floods the room. The air is moist with emotion.
A phone rings. Our master of ceremonies realises it is hers, announces who is calling, and the lecture theatre choruses, ‘Answer it.’
The bucket of money is divided in half and presented to the top two students. $81.70 each.
It might not be the Academy Awards, with red carpets, glittering dresses and sparkling champagne.
But like the Academy Awards attendees, this is a performance group. Our work is intended for public consumption. Everyone chooses to be here.
When one of the students performs with guitar and voice, he is very good.
A poem is read by a dozen people. I know to avoid adverbs and clichés to describe the quiet in the room.
Some of us will go on to be published.
You, the public, will pay money to read our works.