Are you a writer who needs some quiet space and time to finish a manuscript? If so, consider booking yourself a stint in gaol.
The Cells for Writers program, a joint initiative of the National Trust (Victoria) and Writers Victoria, offers writers quiet places in which to work. The spaces are actually former prison cells on the top floor of the Old Melbourne Gaol, in Russell Street, Melbourne.
Roderick Poole, Director of Writers Victoria, recommends the program: 'For any writer who has a pressing need to avoid distractions, the cells provide perfect minimalist seclusion.'
Writers can apply to use one of the cells as a studio for a fixed, four-week period. Costs will be subsidised. In return, writers must agree to participate in an Open Cell event on the last Sunday of the month. At these events, writers can share their experiences of working this way.
Applications are open to writers at all stages of writing - beginning, emerging and established. The cost of renting a cell for a month is $120 for Writers Victoria members and $180 for non-members. Further information is included in the application form. Preference will be given to writers working on projects that might have some association with the Gaol, for example, crime writers, historians or biographers.
Cells come equipped with light, power and heating. A desk, chair and personal computer will be provided but no telephone or Internet access. Writers will be granted supervised access to the Gaol's archives and reference collection during their stay.
Even if writers are driven to distraction by looming deadlines, the cell cannot be trashed. Leaving the cell in the same state as it was at the start of the residency is one of the contract conditions.
In a nice touch of irony, writers need to have concluded a current police check (issued within the last six months) as a condition of applying.