by Kim Kelly

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Our Millthorpe Pop-Up is a celebration of Australian writing, our books all gathering together in a little gold-rush era village with stories whispering from every wild colonial verandah post. Please tell us, Adele, if you were to set a tale in Millthorpe, with its many layers of history – from the Wiradjuri wars to boutique stores – what sort of a tale might you tell?

In the novel The Coffee Palace, there is significant section including the Blind Music Students Concert Company (from Melbourne, but also travelling to all states across 20 years, as well as to New Zealand and the US). They performed widely in New South Wales including the Goulburn area, Riverina, and in Millthorpe itself in 1895, 1903 and Bathurst in 1900. Travelling concert troupes were a highlight of Australia’s rural towns, including Millthorpe and its neighbours. The stories of some of these, with their romance, excitement, and perhaps things better left forgotten, would be the tale I would research and tell for Millthorpe.

That sounds fascinating. Tell us about the wonderful tales you’ll be bringing to the Millthorpe Pop-Up from far and wide.

My focus will be on Coffee Palaces (and Temperance Inns), including those at coffeeMillthorpe’s neighbouring Blayney, Bathurst, and Cowra Coffee Palaces, and on a Riverina Coffee Palace and the family who built and ran it until 1914 when it burnt down. My story takes us to chapters set in Ireland in the mid-1800s, to Tasmania, and into Victoria and NSW. There are many stories within The Coffee Palace which tell stories now found only in old newspapers, with long-forgotten memories. My other stories (apart from The Coffee Palace) and poetry collections have been written and collected across many years when I lived and worked in the South Pacific, Afghanistan, and the Balkans, especially Kosovo. However, it is The Coffee Palace which I will share principally, hoping visitors and guests are as keen as the Berrigan and Riverina people were recently.

What’s your favourite Australian story – be it a novel, a film, or legend? And why do you love it?

One of my favourite books is My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. The book speaks to young (and oldish) women of any era I think, and still inspires me for the life of a woman with few role models like the life chosen in the book. I love this book – it is a classic. One reader of over 70 recently wrote of The Coffee Palace – “this book, will in time, go down as a classic”. I can only dream of this, but in the meantime, I continue to enjoy My Brilliant Career anew.

Describe the view from your storytelling window today.

I have two storytelling windows because I live and write in two countries. In Freiburg, in Germany, I look out onto a meadow where a local farmer runs his fourteen sheep each day – a far cry from the Riverina but in fact it was as I watched sheep being brought down from the higher hills near the Black Forest before winter some years ago, that I wrote Chapter 3 in The Coffee Palace. It was the sheep dog which spurred me on. My other windows have been in Cork, in Ireland, and various different locations in Australia. I seem to be able to make my surroundings take on a character to fit my writing.

How beautiful. Now, Adele, if you were to write the Great Australian Novel, where might you begin?

Australia has so many wonderful novels, but I would start with Louisa Lawson (1848-1920),  Henry Lawson’s mother – a woman who wrote and promoted women labour and pay rights. Louisa will have seen so many changes for women and men in this important time, and finishing in 1920 would leave the way open for a sequel – the next 100 years. Her words finish my novel The Coffee Palace.

What a magnificent woman Louisa Lawson was. And now, it time for a cup of tea, I think. Fortunately, Millthorpe has plenty of options, from country pub to hatted restaurant, and several gorgeous cafes. So what’s your yen? Coffee and cake? Beer and chips? Coq au vin and Pinot Grigio?  And while we’re here, which Australian author would you like to invite to your table?

I would like to invite Les Murray to dinner. I heard him speak some years ago at the Freiburg Literatur Haus – a modest man, with such wisdom and insight. I love his poetry and have read his book The Quality of Sprawl several times – as relevant as when it was first written for our constantly changing Australian society and environment.

Well, cheers to that! Thanks for bringing your story love to Millthorpe, Adele.

Adele choice for Pop Up