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Paul’s having a blast in our city’s rich past

HISTORIAN: Local author Paul Stafford is driving the Bathurst 200 writing project and has 10 schools signed up to produce two pieces based around a single character or identity from the region’s history. 121114zhistory4WHEN you talk to Paul Stafford about local history, you can tell he is genuinely excited by what the Bathurst region has to offer.
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The local author, who hails from Kurrajong in the Blue Mountains, is a driving force behind the Bathurst 200writing project and can’t wait for the bicentenary year to get underway in 2015.

Married to Catarina and proud dad of three youngchildren (Matilda, 7, Lola, 5, and Archie, 3), Paul is living the country lifestyle at Billywillinga.

While he’s not chasing kids, Paul, 48, is focusing on the big celebrations that are just around the corner, and has spend productive days this week at St Philomena’s, Perthville Public and The Assumption schools mentoring children for the writing project which is being funded by the Heritage Council of NSW and Arts NSW.

All Bathurst schools were invited by mail and emailearlier in the year and the first 10 responders are nowcommencing the program.

“The project will bedelivered to a maximum of 10 schools from both the public and non-public sector, and I am pleased to say we’ve now got the numbers we need,” Mr Stafford said.

“The plan is to visit the schools and get the children up and running, and from there the project will involve video conference follow-ups.

“I’m fascinated by Bathurst history and will be falling back on my experience of writing non-fiction (You’re History, Mate! published by Random House Australia), and historical fiction (Ned Kelly’s Helmet, published by Crawford Publishing) to guide thestudents through the research and writing process.

“Each school will produce two pieces of publishablequality writing (onenon-fiction, one historicalfiction) based around a single character or identity from Bathurst’s history.

“I will personally proofread and edit these pieces and the Western Advocate will bepublishing these 10 schools’ completed works, with one school being showcased per week in the 10 weeks prior to May 7, 2015.”

Paul said he came to Bathurst many years ago as student at the former Mitchell College of Advanced Education (now CSU) studyingcommunications, majoring in print journalism.

He graduated in 1989 and caught the travel bug, heading overseas for three years before returning to Sydney.

“I worked in the events industry for a while, but when I was 30 I came back to Bathurst with a view to writing which had been a dream of mine. I really wanted to get out of Sydney and do this,” Paul said.

“I had loved my time in Bathurst so much and with so much history behind it, it was the logical place for me to go.

“I knew Jim Rutherford and luckily for me I managed to rent the 1830s shepherd’scottage at the historic Blayney Road mansion known as Bathampton. It was amagnificent place to be able to stay and I lived therefor 13 years, writing 12 books along the way and loving every minute of it.

“Then I broke into working with the schools as a literacy consultant, and in collaboration with Penny Packham from the Fossil and Mineral Museum, started the Dead Bones Society, which aims to improve boys’ literacy skills.

“There was unprecedented demand from schools from far and wide, so we adapted it to a video conferencing platform and went onto win several awards.

“Based on this, I was then able to bring in a lot morepersonal interest which is now history and especially a love of Bathurst’s history.

“Even though I am appalled at some of the beautiful old local buildings that have been knocked down, we still have very historical streetscapes that have a special place in Australian history with the gold rushes, bushrangers andhappenings from a bygone era.”

Paul said he is also currently writing a sequel to his Ned Kelly book about Matthew Flinders, as well as running a special writing program for Year 7 and 8 reluctant anddisengaged boys.

“There a lot of kids who fit into this category,” he said. “I have a network of high schools involved in a multimodalprogram that’s a combination of on-site workshops and video conference follow-ups.”

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