Varuna Writers’ House in Katoomba scores $100,000 grant

The executive director of Varuna the National Writers’ House has welcomed a state government grant of $100,000 for a wheelchair-accessible studio.

Access for all: Varuna Writers House chair Jennifer Scott, Liberal candidate for the Blue Mountains Owen Laffin and Varuna Writers House executive director Veechi Stuart.

Access for all: Varuna Writers House chair Jennifer Scott, Liberal candidate for the Blue Mountains Owen Laffin and Varuna Writers House executive director Veechi Stuart.

Veechi Stuart, said Australia’s pre-eminent institution for the professional development of writers, had been applying for grants since early 2016 and the money would mean they could now stop saying no to writers in wheelchairs.

“Every year we receive at least three or four enquiries from writers who would like to apply for a residency at Varuna, but who are in wheelchairs or using walking frames,” Ms Stuart said.

“We’ve had to advise these writers that we are unable to accommodate them. It will be such a delight to be able to say ‘yes, please do apply for a residency, we’d love to see you here’.”

The grant for the 1930’s Katoomba property was received under the NSW government’s Creative Capital Fund.

“The building will enable mobility-impaired writers to access Varuna’s valuable professional development programs, and be part of a vibrant community of talented writers, Ms Stuart said.

“The cultural impact of this project for the writing community will be enormously positive.

“Inclusivity and excellence are core values for us here at Varuna, and so we are thrilled we can now welcome all writers,” Ms Stuart added.

​The new building will be a small single-level studio with a bedroom, study, bathroom and kitchenette, connected to the main house of Varuna via a simple pathway and ramp.

Last week Legislative Council member Shayne Mallard visited Varuna with Blue Mountains Liberal candidate Owen Laffin to give them the good news and meet with some of the resident writers.

Mr Mallard said “being a classic art deco building the writers’ retreat has accessibility challenges for those writers who may need a wheelchair or other assistance. This grant will largely pay for a separate but integrated accessible accommodation studio for writers to use whilst still participating in the atmosphere and unique life of Varuna”.

Mr Laffin called Varuna “one of the many hidden gems of the Blue Mountains arts and cultural community” and said “sound economic management” had enabled the studio’s funding.

“If I am honored to be elected as the next member for the Blue Mountains … I will work tirelessly to secure more funding, not only for Varuna, but the many hundreds of arts and cultural organisations across the Blue Mountains,” Mr Laffin said.

The grant was part of almost half a million dollars funding to assist in capital works in arts and cultural venues in western Sydney. The program is aimed at supporting innovative smaller-scale capital infrastructure projects. The initiative offers funding up to $100,000 to improve venues, repair and conserve collections or to purchase new equipment to improve the usability of arts and cultural facilities.