The lemon-butter coloured building that used to house the Morrow Park Bowling Club appears to be deserted.
Until, seemingly out of nowhere, a man appears wearing a Freddy Mercury-style open-chested beige spandex jumpsuit, a medieval warrior-style shoulder piece, a quiff atop his head and gold glittering paint across his nose and around his eyes.
‘‘I’m Zac Watt,’’ he says, extending a hand with a tuft of dark-blonde fur on the wrist.
‘‘Come and meet the unicorn.’’
A cluster of women wearing headpieces made from feathers, roses – even one that resembles a birds nest – tumble down the steps of the building and help to push the fibreglass unicorn on to what used to be a soccer field.
Weekender has arrived at 85 Railway Lane, Wickham, where a collective of creatives known as Signor Piggy Wigg Productions is preparing for its upcoming performance in Brisbane’s Harvest Festival next weekend.
‘‘The idea is for a full-scale street parade with floats, with personnel crowded on to each float,’’ Watt says.
‘‘I will be dressed in this lion suit, riding a bike and towing a float with the unicorn, which will be ridden by a Lady Godiva-style character throwing out flower petals and surrounded by the unicorn’s minders, the spring beauties.’’
As director of this collective, Watt has had an association with this kooky and beloved site for more than a decade.
He was a member of the band that was based at the club, Hauntingly Beautiful Mousemoon, which morphed into The Lovelorn Living Party.
They targeted national festivals, and operated under their own portable circus tent called the Bohemian Love Theatre, performing at Peats Ridge Festival, Melbourne Fringe Festival, cabaret shows and community events.
Crucial to the group’s ability to deliver such interesting projects is the communal space where they continue to meet and create.
When the bowling club closed about eight years ago, Jones and Watt negotiated with RailCorp, which own the property, for the collective to become the new leasees.
‘‘We’ve prevented it from becoming a derelict squat hovel,’’ Watt says.
The stage, bar and carpeted dining area have been transformed into rehearsal and dance spaces strewn with costumes, props, signs and bordered with couches.
The former cool room, which was insulated, is now one of three recording studios.
‘‘I see it as an incubation resource,’’ Watt says of the space. ‘‘Hundreds of creative projects in Newcastle – some really well known ones – were born in this space, it’s been a resource for the creative community.’’
Many artists arrived at the club without any previous experience expressing their ingenuity, he says.
‘‘People will show up here one afternoon looking for something to get involved in, to be creative in,’’ he says.
‘‘They see 50 people stitching or hammering or painting and they have someone say to them ‘you are welcome to contribute’.’’
The group is auspiced by Great Lakes Community Resources, which covers matters of insurance, liquor licences and accounts, but is not a financial entity and sometimes Watt cannot pay the performers. At times he has had to use the performance fee to pay travel costs to get to a festival.
When Watt was asked by a former colleague to create a proposal for the Harvest Festival he decided to turn to crowdsourcing website Pozible in the hope of raising at least $2000.
‘‘We have to support the arts otherwise the world is going to be a very bleak realm,’’ he says.
Dressed as a lion – ‘‘it symbolises boldness, courage and that I’m proud of us as dreamers and vision-makers’’ – Watt will be joined by an oceanic character riding in a bath that has been transformed into a pirate ship and other floats that celebrate insects, royalty, marching bands and harpies. A pink cannon will also fire hotpants into the crowd.