Step into Dimboola’s brave new world
by Chan Uoy
Lady Gaga meets HG Wells in a regional railway town’s interpretation of Victoriana with a time travelling twist.
Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe also will be there, in spirit if not in costume, as the streets of Dimboola, Western Victoria, are bedazzled for a night of madcap fantasy.
The second Wimmera Steampunk Festival on April 20-23 aims to blend performance art, music and eccentricity before an audience of thousands gathered in their fantastical finery.
“We’re reimagining Dimboola as a 19th century outpost for time travellers,” said Festival Director Chan Uoy, owner of the town’s fabled Imaginarium, dedicated to all things whimsical.
“Steampunk is a rich and flexible world where the event is not just a gathering of people, but also a gathering of fanciful stories.
“The town centre will become a playground for strangeness and escapism.”
Steampunk is a growing sub-culture where Sherlock Holmes may stroll arm-in-arm with Doctor Who, and where Queen Victoria may be waiting to catch the Hogwarts Express from platform 9¾.
Up to 5,000 visitors are anticipated for the second edition of the town’s surrealistic soiree, which attracted 2,500 at its debut in 2022.
For a community hitherto only known for a few brushstrokes from Australian artist Sidney Nolan, who was billeted there during World War Two, and a movie of the same name which is probably better forgotten, the four-day frolic promises to deliver Dimboola back to the future with a party of the most peculiar proportions.
School children will lead a lantern procession marching to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, performed by the Horsham Rural City Band, street dancers will lead the crowd through the Time Warp, and bands will play between rainbow illuminated trees and buildings alive with laser projections.
Authors Carol Ryles from Perth and Karen Carlisle from Adelaide will talk about Steampunk world creations and writing for those wishing to dive deeper into the genre.
Bookended by a one-act play, ‘Shuddersome: Tales of Poe’, at the renovated Dimboola Star Theatre, and the obligatory post festivities chillout, the Saturday night street party is the highlight; fuelled in part, perhaps, by the previous night’s gin degustation evening and variety show at the Victorian Railway Institute.
If there are celebrities in attendance, many won’t recognise them behind the crow feather masks and cosplay, although Sydney milliner, Neil Grigg, creator of headwear for stage productions of Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, has been drafted in to judge the costumes of the closet escapists.
Nolan spent the years 1942-43 in the town, studying the characters around him.
What he would make of its daring new enterprise is anyone’s guess.
“Steampunk allows people to let their minds roam,” said Uoy.
“Last year’s event exceeded all expectations.
“It totally transformed our once dying little township into a celebration of the weird and the wonderful, an above all, the welcoming.”
Expect a phantasmagoria of quark, strangeness and charm… to quote a couple of British prog rock album titles from the 1970s.
The second Wimmera Steampunk Festival is hosted by the Dimboola Town Committee and Hindmarsh Shire Council.
Tickets for the main street party are available at www.trybooking.com/CEXOV and Shuddersome from www.eventbrite.com.au/e/shuddersome-tales-of-poe
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