A bus, 10 creative artists, a bathtub, and outback towns ... let's find out what happens

Helen Hopcroft in the bathtub she will take out west along with some artistic friends. Picture: Simone De Peak.
Helen Hopcroft in the bathtub she will take out west along with some artistic friends. Picture: Simone De Peak.

They're calling it The Road to Tibooburra and, in some ways, it's a modern day twist on Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Imagine Steve Kilbey, of The Church, writing an album during the duration of your eight-day bus trip with nine other equally artistic types.

Then there's the actor and film producer who might team up, the painter, the writer, the designer ... well, it's going to happen.

The bus leaves Maitland Regional Art Gallery on September 1, and is heading to the outback to bring fun, art and creativity to communities that have done it tough in recent years from a combination of drought, bushfires and now a pandemic.

But instead of Priscilla's drag performers, on board this bus will be 10 artistic types - "a bit of everything" according to Maitland's own Helen Hopcroft - who plan to use the trip as a creative mixing pot to see what they can come up with.

"Musicians, artists, poets, film producers, actors, painters, writers, designers ... you name it, a really interesting mix," Helen said.

"With COVID, a lot of these people had some spare time, so we thought we'd get them together and see what happens.

"In an enclosed environment like this, the creative types tend to feed off each other, so I'm excited to see what comes out of it. It's not often you can get people of this calibre together."

The idea was the brainchild of Helen, her cousin, renowned musician and film producer Julien Poulson who has been in Maitland making a short film called Space Junk which is now finished, and cinematographer Mark Roy.

Julien had always wanted to visit some of the old outback pubs and they thought 'why not'?

From there it was a matter of getting the right people ... multi-talented people who had a wide range of skills and were the right 'fit'.

So, Steve Kilbey, front man of The Church, will be on board and he has committed to writing a new album on the trip.

Alt country singer Lisa de Angelis will there too, as will percussionist and drummer Reuben Alexander, New York trained actor Louise Chapman and film producer Michael Cody to name a few.

"We want to film a documentary on the way, too," Helen said. "And we also have gigs lined up in Broken Hill and Tibooburra."

If that doesn't sound eclectic enough, there's also some live theatre planned that involves a bath tub with the script currently being written in Dusseldorf, Germany of all places.

"A long story," Helen said in what seems an understatement. "But it means we've had to go out and locate a clawfoot bath - and let me say many thanks to Geraldine Moran in that front - which we'll be taking with us."

Anything else out of the ordinary?

"All the usual instruments ... oh, and a cello too."

As far as bus trips go, it sure beats the 164 from Maitland to Cessnock.