For the love of words

A dedicated group of book and poetry lovers have been busy building up the
Scone Literary Festival and establishing Scone as Australia’s literary capital.

Famously, Scone is the only town in regional Australia that American author and orator Mark Twain visited on his journey Down Under in 1895. On the train from Newcastle to the Upper Hunter, he worked on his great Australian poem, ‘A Sweltering Day in Australia’, which he would debut the next day in a public lecture at Scone’s School of Arts in Kingdon Street.

Yet there is more to Scone’s literary heritage than a long-ago visit by a foreign dignitary. Scone can also lay claim to Australia’s only Literary Nobel Laureate, Patrick White of Belltrees, one of the Upper Hunter’s most iconic rural properties. Nobel Prize nominee Judith Wright hails from a pioneering Scone family and renowned authors Barbara Baynton and Donald Horne (‘A Lucky Country’) also have roots in the Upper Hunter.

So maybe it was the genius loci, that inspired a series of literary lunches in 2013. What started as an informal get-together was incorporated in 2015 as the Scone Literary Festival. The event quickly gained a reputation as a festival that asks the big questions in a stimulating yet intimate atmosphere where readers, writers and lovers of all things literary, mingle and enjoy the warm country hospitality of the Upper Hunter.

In 2022, the “big little festival” as it is often referred to, will run from 11 – 13 March, yet the organisers have just announced a modified, community-focussed outdoor event to replace the packed, mostly indoor-focussed three-day program that featured a very diverse range of topics, activities and speakers. The SLF Committee hope to stage the originally planned, full three-day festival early in November this year.

“There is no doubt that people are very cautious about attending events where there is a large gathering of people, particularly inside,” said Janie Jordan, SLF President.

“This has been a very difficult decision, incredibly disappointing, but we do need to consider the welfare of everyone who is involved and attends our beloved, ‘big, little’ festival.  We needed to feel confident that we could hold a successful and safe event.

“While we’re in the very early planning stages of our modified event, it will be focussed on what we do best – celebrating the love of words and enjoying great conversation stimulated by great talks by great authors,” said Ms Jordan.

Picnic style events such as the Picnic in the Park at Murrurundi with Hunter author, Paula Beavan, on Sunday March 13 can be expected, and there a high likelihood that the popular Bush Poets’ Breakfast will also be part of the modified program.

The writing competitions, the state electorate wide Farmers Short Story Writing Competition and Write Up for high schoolers in the Upper Hunter and Muswellbrook LGAs, proceed as planned.

More details on the modified, community event for the weekend of March 11-13 will be announced shortly.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photos courtesy of Scone Literary Festival