Walking around the NightQuarter just an hour after its VIP opening, a friend commented that it felt just like a festival. Splendour, Falls, Bluesfest, Coachella. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were at any number of music and cultural festivals that happen around the world. The dusty gravel pathways contributed to that. Fairy lights, the hum of music, laughter and the design of the space also helped.
The major point of difference, of course, is that NightQuarter happens in Helensvale. And twice a week at that.
From a block away the space is enormous. Two domed roofs that sit atop strips of shipping containers are all you can see when you arrive at Helensvale Railway Station (word to the wise, pay attention to the stops or you’ll end up at Ormeau like we did). And as you enter the precinct, the creative use of containers becomes obvious. As well as housing restaurants, bars, boutiques and galleries they also form the outer walls of those two domed areas. While they’re all weather in that they have a roof, they’re open air as both ends of that domed space are exposed. On a warm night, an airy breeze was blowing through the large music venue, bringing welcome relief.
With a special preview event called First Taste on Friday night followed by the public opening on Saturday night, the team who brought it all together did so in just eight weeks. A mighty effort by anyone’s standards. So it was easy to overlook dusty tables, generators and frantic food vendors still working out what’s what. And to be honest, you only noticed those things if you were looking for them.
For the vast majority of punters, it was a case of sensory overload (in the best way possible). Stilt-walkers, fire-twirlers, acoustic soloists, rock bands, funk lords, steaks, street food, carnival food and dancing funnel-cake makers filled every nook and cranny of NightQuarter. The aromas of steak cooking on native hardwood mixed with spices and the smell of roasting garlic. People mingled with wine, fairy floss, burgers, cocktails and beer. And the crowd reflected the diversity of offerings – all ages, cultures, abilities and mindsets represented in the thousands of people who flocked to the space to check it out on its first weekend.
We sampled the drinks menu (gin and frozen sangria) and we sampled the food menu: cook your own steak (cooked by celebrity chef Ben O’Donoghue) and cronuts. We passed peopled with noodles and oysters, dumplings, cupcakes, ice-cream cones and more. The bars were at times crowded. One hadn’t had its kegs turned on yet. But nearly everyone was jubilant to be there.
There are plenty of bars and there are plenty of tables to sit in groups and enjoy a meal. In the Paddock there are stand up bars as well as tables and a taco joint up the back. The floor is astro turf which keeps the dust to a minimum and helps to buffer noise.
But the highlight by far, particularly for readers of Blank was the number of creative workers we saw working their magic.
Musicians entertained at a variety of locations. Tapas Street offers up soloists playing acoustic sets. People stopping in, buying a CD, having a quick feed and moving on. Josh Lovegrove was stoked to be one of the first musicians there.
“It’s actually better here when it’s not too packed,” Josh reflected, adding that he’d sold a heap of CDs. “People kind of sit for a while and listen.”
And in the Paddock – which is a purpose built 2000 capacity live music venue, people rocked out to Jake Whittaker with a full band and then later to Cheap Fakes who closed the stage.
And of course, where there are musicians, there are sound engineers. Biggsounds is providing the sound for NightQuarter and Adam Biggs and his team were run off their feet that night, having only just got electricity to the site a few hours before opening time.
Fire dancers, stilt walkers and belly dancers also had gigs that night. Some onstage, some roaming through the marketplace. Neal Webb who runs Energy Entertainments and helped book some of those acts said it was “so great” to have additional paid performance opportunities like this one.
And Nigel Coates (AKA Sparky Do Dah) has created the most amazing interactive play area for children of all ages. Far from a traditional child care space, it’s a dedicated area for families to learn, explore, play, create and imagine together. You’ll find puzzles, games, stilts and much more in Sparky’s brightly coloured containers and the entry fee is totally worth it.
There were bookers and promoters, photographers, videographers, publishers and writers all getting paid to be involved in some capacity as well. There were musicians selling CDs, there were artists selling their creations and designers selling fashion and jewellery. And there were people there to capture it all through images and words.
So yes, absolutely you must visit NightQuarter to check out the incredible food and fashion. But when you do, you can do so with a sense of righteousness, knowing that you’re also contributing to Gold Coast’s creative economy in the best way possible – by sustaining opportunities for our talented artists.
NightQuarter opens every Friday and Saturday from 4.00 – 10.00pm. Entry is $3.00.