Fourth annual Scone Literary Festival produces big ideas and attracts big names

POLITICS, patriotism, pop culture and everything in between – what started as a small country writer’s festival is now the launch pad for some big ideas.

Peter FitzSimons was the first to take the stand in front of a packed hall on Saturday at the Scone Arts and Crafts centre for the town’s fourth literary festival.

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month the hall halted following a conversation between FitzSimons and Gundy local and ABC broadcaster Phillip Adams, to stand in one minute of silence, marking Remembrance Day.

The discussion then turned to all things history and homeland as a panel including award winning Aboriginal writer Melissa Lucashenko, Ilka Tampke and Tom Thompson raised questions surrounding the heritage of our ancestors.

The ideas didn’t stop there as the spotlight turned towards an intriguing session moderated by Phillip Adams, questioning Paul Keating’s former speech-writer and award winning author Don Watson.

“When you’re from the country it’s very hard to get that out of your system – it’s in your bone marrow,” Don Watson said as Adams delved into the origins of his book ‘The Bush’.

Growing up on his family's Gippsland dairy farm, Watson said it was something he had been “waiting his whole life to write.”

“It’s a reminder that the Australian landscape – the bush – is so distinctively intertwined in our culture,” he said.

Other guests at the three-day sold out festival included author of The Dressmaker, Rosalie Ham, and producer Sue Maslin who discussed adapting the story from the page to the screen.

“When I first approached Rosalie the rights had already gone to another producer,” producer Sue Maslin said.

“Not every book you read leads itself to be a great movie.”

Concepts surrounding whether a story could be “lost in translation” were the topic of the hour.

“The comedy, the tragedy, the irony of setting this gorgeous fifties cotour dress making in that outback environment visually just leaps off the page,” Sue Maslin said.

Sue and Rosalie had to fight through years of rejection to transition the story to the screen.

It was just “too Australian and too female and too high-risk”.

When Adams posed the question “well why wasn’t an Australian actress cast” Sue Maslin replied, “well, we did – but it got turned down.”

“We offered it to two a-list Australian actresses and they both turned it down – and one of them is very sorry.”

“There’s something very earthy about Kate,” Adams replied.

The earthy, funny and fearless Kate Winslet was the lead act in the stunning film ‘The Dressmaker’ of which many of the original set props were on display in the Scone Arts hall over the weekend.

Other guests included Gold Walkley Winner and Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy and award winning Australian photographer turned Murrurundi local David Darcy.

The Scone Literary Festival is set to return with a new panel in 2018.​