Southern Highlands

Festival of Australian

Bush Poetry

SUNDAY 30th MAY 2004

Sutton Forest Village

Poetry Competition Entry Forms CLICK HERE

"Murder! Bloody Murder!" John Parry, local identity and Moss Vale barber,savours the joke as he prepares to slash the 'red-hot razor-back' across the newly-shaven throat of The Man From Ironbark (played with theatricalo flair by Robertson's Bob McInnes) It's all in fun and keen anticipation of the inaugural Southern Highlands Festival of Australian Bush Poetry set for Sunday 30 May 2004 at the Sutton Forest Village Hall and environs. See Details Below... ENTRY FORMS

$2,000 Prize Pool for Original Verse and Recitation

Click here for ENTRY FORMS OR Further Info

The following information has been obtained from Frank Daniel, President of the Australian Bush Poet's Association at

The Southern Highlands, of course, is where you'll find beautiful Bowral, the boyhood home of Don Bradman. It's also now home to the famous Bradman Museum, reported to be the world's finest museum of cricket. The museum's long-serving Director is Richard Mulvaney who has been recruited to the new Festival to show off his talent for recitation. And what could be more apt than the re-telling, in the immortal words of Thomas Spencer, of the tale of the match when the boys from Pipers Flat played Molongo - and MacDougal topped the score!
There'll be the chance for you too, like Ted Egan, to lay the groundwork for a tilt at vice-regal status if you can come up with a piece of verse of the quality of 'The Tiger and the Don'.
The organisers are putting money in the kit of any band who can compose the best line or two in fond memory of the greatest batsman the world has ever seen (and are we likely ever to see again anyone of his calibre?). So, start thinking what rhymes with 'ninety nine point nine four'…
The Highlands is also well known for its Scottish connections: Bundanoon hosts a world-renowned Highland Gathering in April each year under the banner 'Bundanoon is Brigadoon' (see for yourself on Saturday 3 April 2004).
And Sutton Forest has Australia's favourite Scottish shop sweetly called 'A Little Piece of Scotland'. The lady who owns the shop is Nerida Barnsley and she is a great admirer of the works of the ploughman poet Robert Burns (often said to be among the 10 greatest poets of all time).
Burns grew up in a farming family and tried hard to succeed as a farmer before turning his hand to tax collecting as an exciseman. In his time he was acclaimed as a rustic genius - a 'bush poet' if you like - who sprang to instant fame through his self-published anthology of poems 'chiefly in the Scottish dialect'. His poems were full of insights to human nature ('if only we could see ourselves as others see us'), the love of women ('my love is like a red, red rose') and the championing of the cause of the common man ('a man's a man for all that').
Nerida is sponsoring a prize for the best new poem that exalts the work of Robert Burns and draws a parallel between his life and times of rural Scotland and those of the bush poets of Australia. Now there's a challenge!
The local youth theatre group is 'performing' their interpretation of Paterson's 'The Man from Ironbark' and there'll be opportunity in a busy day for a melding of the old (classics) and the new. The essence of the Festival is to rekindle interest in the magnificent poetry of 'The Bulletin era' as well as to encourage the emergence of new poets to embrace the genre and carry forward a great Australia tradition: the bush poem. The action takes place in and besides the village hall but late afternoon may well see an orderly retreat to the nearby Sutton Forest Inn for a thirst-quenching ale or two.
The promoters of the new Festival are serious about getting it off to a good start and have stumped up a prize pool of $2,000 to excite the interest of poets from far and wide. The top prize of $1,000 will go to the poet whose new work best captures the (seemingly) disparate themes of the day. At first glance it's a bit daunting to be asked to find common ground in cricket, Scots and Holden utes! Nerida herself has no such qualms: "Sir Donald and Robert Burns would have found much in common: they both admired and pursued excellence, even in something as commonplace as hitting a ball with a bat - and both came from the humblest of rural backgrounds where they were largely self-educated. The original bush poets came to notice through humour that touched the common man: people everywhere in the world celebrate the birthdate of Burns on 25 January by raising a glass of fine Scotch whisky to toast - a humble meat pudding! ('To a Haggis: great Chieftain of the pudding race...'). Perhaps to the Scots the haggis has the same iconic status as does the Holden ute to his Aussie mate:


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