Australian rock legend Mark Seymour and a 64-member choir will help launch a book by Newport’s Donna Jackson about asbestos-related illness and social change through the arts.

Jackson’s book, Art and Social Change – Dust: A Case Study, will be launched by arts stalwart Robyn Archer at next month’s Williamstown Literary Festival.

The book documents the genesis of Jackson’s Dust stage production and how art can be more than light entertainment.

Her interest in asbestos stemmed from a chance meeting at Scienceworks in 2006.

“I met a bricklayer whose name is Ron Patton and he told me that he’d been to six funerals in six months of friends who’d been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases,” Jackson said.

“I was surprised to find out that there were people from all different backgrounds, not just people in the building industry … that there were people who were renovating houses, pulling up carpet or fixing up bathrooms.

“And that they were exposed to asbestos … just by one fibre they could become really sick and become ill with a disease called mesothelioma and die.

“I was talking more to Ron Patton … he seemed to have a bit of a dark sense of humour. He told me a story about building crematoriums with bricks and that was one of the ways that he was exposed to asbestos.

“He told me when he died he wanted to go into one of these kilns that he’d built at a crematorium with a lid off the coffin so he could admire his brickwork as he was cremated.”

Jackson was inspired by Mr Patton’s dark sense of humour and resilience to create the theatre production Dust, which had seven successful seasons from 2008 to 2013. Seymour composed seven of the show’s eight songs.

Jackson’s book, which includes music from the show, has been distributed to 250 schools statewide.

Art and Social Change – Dust: A Case Study will be launched as the feature closing event of the Williamstown Literary Festival.

Seymour will perform, along with actor Jane Bayly, the Willin Wimmin and Victorian Trade Union choirs and local singers.

The event, with entry by gold coin donation, will run from 6-7.30pm on June 19 at Williamstown Town Hall. Bookings are required. For more information, visit