Norpa artistic director Julian Louis wants to hear your rail stories for a new theatrical work to be staged at the disued Lismore station. Homeless man Peter Ryder was there sheltering from the rain.
Norpa artistic director Julian Louis wants to hear your rail stories for a new theatrical work to be staged at the disued Lismore station. Homeless man Peter Ryder was there sheltering from the rain.

Tales of rail evoke history

Peter Ryder grew up in Lismore and remembers regularly catching the train to visit his grandma in Mullumbimby. Peter is now homeless and when The Echo visited Lismore railway station on Monday, he was using the station to shelter from the rain.

Since the Casino-to-Murwillumbah rail line was closed down six years ago, the region is littered with disused railway stations.

Where some people see a rundown buildings with degrading infrastructure, Norpa’s artistic director Julian Louis sees a location for innovative theatre and a history rich with stories.

Norpa is currently looking for people to write a story of up to 2000 words inspired by the rail line. Six of the stories will be selected to be read by prominent local actors at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, accompanied by live music.

“It could be a memory or a great story about the rail. There aren’t many play writers in the region, and you don’t need to have written anything before. It could be a short story or a piece of prose... It could be pure fiction or non-fiction,” Julian said. “Railway and railway stations are often synonymous with romance, intrigue, escape and adventure, reunions and partings, a tearful farewell, a brief encounter – trains have crossed and recrossed the Australian landscape since 1854. Everyone has a railway story, a journey taken or a character met.”

As well as being performed at the Writers Festival, the stories will be used in the development of a new multi dimensional work called Railway Wonderland, to be performed at the Lismore railway station later in the year. Parts of the show may also travel to other disused stations in the region.

“The writers will be involved in the development of the material, but we might want to take a character or an idea or a situation and develop it into something else,” Julian said.

There will be a huge call out for musicians, circus performers, acrobats, actors and people with all sorts of other bizarre talents later in the year.

“We want to showcase the great, eccentric talent of the region,” Julian said.

Norpa will be conducting a 10-day creative development of Railway Wonderland in September where the writers and performers will get together to work with a musical director and dramaturg to create a live score and script from the six selected stories.

Julian said the idea for developing a site-specific piece about the railway came partly from a German play called The Visit, but mainly from wanting to do something that connected the region with its past.

“There’s a bit of romance with railways. The coming of the industrial age... But this area has always been about people coming and going, or people coming here and the place changing them. In a really playful and physical way we want to explore that – the transience or the thing that draws people here to live and they find out something about themselves along the way,” Julian said. “By its very nature, it (Railway Wonderland) will have a nostalgic edge... but this is an opportunity to create new work and engage with the region.”

If you think you have an idea for a story and can get it down in less than 2000 words, get your entries to creative producer Marisa Snow by April 12.

Email producer@

norpa.org.au or mail your story to PO Box 225, Lismore, NSW, 2480.


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