Rare screening as ABC television classic comes to Mount Vic Flicks

Wentworth Falls resident Peter Spolc was nine-years-old when he saw a new drama broadcast on ABC television. It was 1969 and the series, Pastures of the Blue Crane, left its watermark on him, and many viewers.

"It was filmed in the Tweed Valley. I was living in temperate Perth and seeing tropical plantations. I was in some exotic dream," said Mr Spolc.

He never forgot its images and themes of escape, family secrecy, emotional isolation, racial shame and the luxuriance of the far north coast. Two years ago he was determined to see if the ABC had it in its archives. He was told yes, but the huge knot of various copyright ownerships put it in a legal hall-of-mirrors.

He contacted Melissa Darnley in Murwillumbah, who had set up a Friends of Pastures Facebook page. There she had written of her captivation by the book. She recalled: "Like many teens then I felt an affinity for the central character, a young woman named Rhyl - the feelings of loneliness, of independence. The story embodied my first real knowledge that indigenous people lived and worked within Northern Rivers communities."

The novel was originally published in 1964, the debut of writer Hesba Fay Brinsmead who grew up in the remote bush near Mt Tomah. Her books helped forge the new genre of young adult fiction. Pastures was an immediate success and won two major awards.

Together with Erika Taylor of the Tweed Valley Museum, Mr Spolc and Ms Darnley set about tracking down and untangling copyright. It took 18 months. The fruit of it all was a packed public screening in a theatre in Murwillumbah last year, and a second by popular demand.

The ABC had commissioned Eleanor Witcombe to adapt the book for television and it was the first decent drama for emerging director, Tom Jeffrey.

"Television in the 60s was a great apprenticeship for film making skills," said Mr Jeffrey recently. "I was excited about getting the chance with Pastures. I wanted to shoot in colour rather than black and white, but unfortunately the ABC budget wasn't as lush as the Tweed Valley settings."

Now Mr Spolc and friends have organised a once-only local screening at Mount Vic Flicks cinema on Sunday, June 2 at noon. Film critic and historian, Leura resident David Stratton, has lent support.

"Fifty years on, this pioneering achievement of Australian television in general, and the ABC in particular, is still impressive, not least for the excellent performances of Jeanie Drynan and Harold Hopkins and the assured direction of Tom Jeffrey," said Mr Stratton.

All five half-hour episodes will be screened. Mr Jeffrey will be attending and give opening remarks. He will be introduced by his daughter, Romola Hollywood, a Blue Mountains City councillor. Concluding, David Stratton will interview the director. Afternoon tea is included.

"The only time I saw it complete was 50 years ago when it was shown on TV. I can't wait to come up to the Mountains and watch it again. The difference this time will be seeing it with a living, breathing audience," said Mr Jefferey.