When I was a child my parents would take me on road trips to view Australia’s educational attractions. High on the itinerary were The Werribee Sewerage Treatment Plant, the Big Merino and Old Sydney Town, where you can experience ‘living history.’
It was the 1970s and 80s when stories of gold rushes, bushrangers and paddle steamers inspired a generation of schoolchildren to be proud of their history.
We were delighted to pan for gold, have OUR NAME stamped on a horseshoe or be offered a hot scone by a costumed digger. It was the next best thing to time travel!
Those childhood memories have marked me.
I’m now obsessed with Shit Tourism.
I’ve travelled the world in search of the craptastic. I’ve visited Brussel’s Mini Europe – ‘A whistle stop tour around Europe in an hour’ and Poland’s Wieliczka salt mines – ‘See Leonardo’s Last Supper carved into a wall of salt!’ But in searching for the top of the crap tourism heap, there’s no place like home.
What is it with Australia’s obsession with Big Things and fake olde worlde villages?
Was it our (now vanished) pride for our national identity? An expression of creativity? Or a recession that pushed people to resort to anything in search of a buck? (Welcome to Gumeracha, SA! While you’re here climb our Giant Rocking Horse!)
Whatever it was, it seems that origins of these ‘experiences’ lie in big dreams.
There’s the Big Stubby in Tewantin, Queensland. Once all 17,000 stubbies were drained and cleaned, a local built a towering beer bottle. It was his dream. He died happy. Then his wife called in the excavators and they mowed the whole thing down.
And my fave, The Wonder from Downunder! The world’s only annelid tourist attraction and the world’s biggest man made worm! (It was hand shaped with a shovel).
John Matthews and Tony Zoanetti dreamed of building a three metre high, 100 metre long giant concrete worm on a barren highway in country Victoria. It cost a million bucks to make. I guess the thinking was, build the worm and they will come!
Opened in 1987, The Wonder from Downunder! was inspired by a real worm in the region that happens to be the largest in the world.
Check this from the brochure: ‘You can even walk through a simulated worm’s stomach. Sounds weird, but who cares. It’s fun’
The Giant Worm was a natural choice for John and Tony because ‘No one else would want to copy what we’ve done.’
Sounds too good to be true?
Join me on a Wizard of Oz style journey in search of the world’s largest worm pink puppet and its elusive creator.
Featuring foul-mouthed puppetry (wrangled by Benito Di Fonzo) a pastiche of 70s variety TV and a comedic TED talk, you’ll never think about worms in the same way again.
As the tagline rolls: ‘Follow your dreams no matter how shit they are.’
As part of Sydney Fringe 2016, Melita Rowston’s Shit Tourism presents THE GIANT WORM SHOW! 6-10 September, The Old 505 @ 5 ELIZA Newtown.
Tickets on sale now: http://bit.ly/2al1OPe