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Great Scott! Sisters make cut in stories on city’s past


Everyone’s got a story about Newcastle, according to Glenn Dormand.

As half of the filmmaking pair responsible for Stories of Our Town, Dormand is keen to help bring the city’s past back to life through the lens.

Also known as Chit Chat Von Loopin Stab from his former days in band Machine Gun Fellatio, he has released the third of a set of 12 films showcasing some of the industrial city’s quirkiest tales.

“The stories are coming at us all the time,” Dormand says. “They are little portals into our past.”

In their latest film ‘The Scott Sisters of Ash Island’, Dormand and filmmaking partner Tony Whittaker regale viewers with the story of teenage illustrators Harriet and Helena Scott, who lived on the island on Newcastle’s western edge during the mid-1800s.

The siblings spent their days illustrating the island’s flora and fauna in a time when women were not allowed to study science.

Their most renowned drawings are those of the island’s butterflies, moths and caterpillars, which are still referred to in botanic circles 170 years later.

“The Scott Sisters was a joy to make because a lot of people didn’t know about them,” Dormand says.

“It’s like a band you didn’t know about and just discovered, and then you can’t get enough of them.”

Dormand, whose father moved to Newcastle from England in the late 1930s, was keen to escape the steel city as a teenager.

He has since returned to the city with a renewed love for the coastal backdrop after becoming a parent himself.

“I ran away from here,” he says.

“Now I’ve had kids I’ve fallen in love with Newcastle again in a powerful way.

“I appreciate it more and now I want to capture that feeling and share it with others.”

Dormand hopes audiences will also appreciate the historical accuracy of the films, which are thanks to an array of local services such as The Port of Newcastle, University of Newcastle, The Newcastle Museum, Newcastle Library, Newcastle Art Gallery, and several media outlets.

“We rely on our academics to source the facts and stories like the Scott Sisters, which took place some time ago but, for the more recent stories, we wanted to talk to people on the ground,” he says.

“People come to us with ideas and tales all the time.

“We interview people and they’d say: ‘If you’re talking to me, you’ve got to talk to so-and-so and this one and …’”

The main aim of the films, Dormand says, is to entertain and possibly educate.

“We want to add new light on stories people already know and hopefully discover stories people don’t know,” he says.

Free access to audiences is also part of the plan.

“We don’t want to charge people to watch the films,” Dormand says. “We call it our gift to the city.”

And what next?

“The Scott Sisters was a joy to make but the next film about Joseph Lycett has really blown me away,” he says.

“It’s captured a time pre-colony, before we destroyed Aboriginal culture. Yeah, I really enjoyed this one.”

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