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Express no mystery train for Outback Elvis festival author

11 January 2017
What do science, music and the Elvis festival have in common?

A human geographer and his former student have combined their interest in music, festivals and rural renewal to write a book providing insights into the biggest Elvis festival in the Southern Hemisphere.

You have to book four years in advance to get a hotel.
Professor John Connell
Parkes Mayor Ken Keith, left, will launch Outback Elvis.

Parkes Mayor Ken Keith, left, will launch Outback Elvis. Credit Sally Chapman.

Human geographer Professor John Connell was preparing today to step aboard the Elvis Express, leaving Central for Parkes to observe the hours-long dress-up party ahead of his book launch Outback Elvis, celebrating the famous festival’s 25th anniversary.

Professor Connell from the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences – who has a focus on tourism and regional development – will be joined at the book launch by his co-author and former PhD student now with the University of Wollongong, Professor Chris Gibson.

Elvis Presley once wrote about a Mystery Train taking his “baby” / “but it never will again”; but for fans, the Elvis Express from Sydney’s Central Station is not a once-off journey.

Although originally invited by Parkes tourism to undertake surveys of the festival, Professor Connell said he and Professor Gibson have focused the book on the people and the passion behind the Parkes Elvis Festival – the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.

“The Parkes Elvis Festival is a phenomenon,” Professor Connell said. “When it first started in 1992, there were more participants than party-goers – now you have to book four years in advance to get a hotel!”

Outback Elvis is being launched on Friday 13 January in Bogan Street at Parkes Library. The book is available in major book shops Australia-wide and online.

The authors analysed the role of rural music festivals in a piece in The Conversation this week.

Vivienne Reiner

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