Ellis adds touch to Nation's story

29 JUNE 2000

"When in times to come our tale is told The world will praise what we accomplished here This proud city on the western plain Its glory will remain"

    "When in times to come our tale is told
    The world will praise what we accomplished here
    This proud city on the western plain
    Its glory will remain"

are the words echoed by renowned Australian playwright Bob Ellis as he offers a glimpse into what will be part of the opening scene of the Federation musical, City of the Plains, to be staged in Bathurst next May, as part of the national Centenary of Federation celebrations.

Mr Ellis has been commissioned by producer of the event, Charles Sturt University historian Robin McLachlan, to co-write the script along with himself, director Bill Blaikie, musical director Max Reeder and school project director Gerry Boland. The musical will tell the story of the 1896 People's Federation Convention held in Bathurst, where the groundwork was laid for Australia's Federation and the hope raised that Bathurst would become the nation's capital.

"I think this is a very important project because as a nation we're very deficient in Australian history," Mr Ellis said.

"I've got to confess this is something I didn't know anything about myself until recently but it really is a very interesting story. It (the Bathurst Convention) was the place where Australia was invented," he said.

A focus on late 19th century theatre is the basis for the play with inclusion of some songs and poetry of the time but Mr Ellis assures the theme is just as relevant to modern Australian society.

"The basic message in the story is that we are not powerless. You can hold public meetings you can tell people about things and it spreads -that's how democracy works and it does. That's what happened here, people came together and out of that Australia was formed," he said.

The project, which has received $50 000 in funding from the Centenary Council, is the result of collaboration between Charles Sturt University and Bathurst community groups. The result will be the staging of the community musical at the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre and a travelling version of the show, to be taken to schools around regional NSW.

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Bathurst Arts & Culture