By Samuel Smith & Ellen Morgan
Last updated on: March 19, 2021 at 8:25 am
Halfway across Australia, in the bones of a disused tractor workshop, 5 passionate, innovative women have founded a thriving creative hub.
Mention Kimba to the majority of city-dwelling South Aussies, and you’re likely to be met with a confused head scratch.
But the tiny town of just 1050 – humble as it may be – has a serious artistic streak, helping catapult its tourism profile.
You’ll see evidence of it splashed across 6 gargantuan wheat silos, as soon as you hit town.
Capturing the hearts and minds of passers-by since 2017, Kimba’s silo art depicts a young girl in a wheat field at sunset – a familiar scene for many South Australians living in rural towns.
The 25m tall mural, painted by artist Cam Scale, was an initiative of the Igniting Kimba group, aiming to bring tourism back to the regional township, help small businesses and empower the community.
But silo art isn’t Kimba’s only tourism drawcard. One of the latest ventures is Workshop26 – the brainchild of 5 local women and a hefty dose of innovative community thinking.
Tucked away on Kimba’s main street, Workshop26 is a melting pot of makers, businesses and artists. It’s Kimba’s creative quarter; a hub where small enterprises can grow, creatives can share their passion and visitors can immerse themselves in the community.
Workshop26 was founded by 5 local women, concocted over a few bottles of champagne and a kitchen table, in 2019.
Affectionately known throughout town as the mad women of W26, the clan consists of Pat Beinke (potter), Carmen Rayner (soap maker and macrame artist), Barb Woolford (candle maker and photographer), Heather Baldock (collector of gorgeous things and furniture restorer) and Maree Barford (member of the management committee).
Though their crafts may differ, these 5 women came together through a shared a vision.
They wanted a place to create, grow business and add vibrance to Kimba.
In their own words, they’re also, admittedly, all a little bit mad.
“We are all locals to Kimba,” says Heather Baldock of Workshop26.
“We are farmers, business owners, volunteers, publicans… but we all share a common concern about the economic situation and growth of our community.
“We are a low rainfall town, and we were in the middle of drought, so we wanted to help change that economic situation.
“Kimba had lost quite a few businesses at the time, so we wanted to create something that would add excitement and vibrancy and bring tourists into the township.
“Barb had seen something in a big shed in the eastern states and she gave us a call and we all got very fired up and believed that we could do it.”
In July 2019, the group and their partners (4 couples in total) became the proud owners of a 90-year-old tractor shed, which they converted into workshop space.
It took a lot of elbow grease, but they had help along the way from the wider Kimba community.
“We had locals come and paint for a while when they had a couple of hours spare. We’ve tried to continue keeping it as a community space,” says Heather.
Now comprised of the main shed and several attached shipping containers, Workshop26 is a not-for-profit creative and retail space, as well as a popular community hub.
There are plans to grow the space even further, with a recent grant allowing more shipping containers to be added.
There’s nothing stopping these ladies, and the community.
The hallowed halls of Workshop26 are constantly buzzing, with an eclectic range of businesses calling the hub home. These include:
The Small Town Soap Co by Carmen Rayner
The Mud Pot by Pat Beinke
High Street Vintage by Heather Baldock
Karawatha Home by Barb Woolford
Alive and Well by Ellen Zibell
The Little Coffee Pot by Megan Dickenson
Happy | Fit | Healthy by Gabi Ashmeade
Zozo and Ace by Danna Kassebaum
Workshop26 is open three days a week, but Heather says it’s best to check their social media for up-to-date information on when you can visit. There are also markets as well as workshops and events (coming soon).
You can see the creators and artists at work in the hub. Watch pottery being made before your eyes, witness candles being crafted and smell the sweet scent of soaps (be sure to take some home with you, too).
While the hub is a shopper’s paradise, Heather says many visitors simply come for a coffee and a chat.
“The interaction that happens between locals and travellers is amazing… when they strike up conversation – it’s been a lovely meeting place as well.”
Heather says the region has seen a recent increase in tourism, with people coming to visit the space, along with Kimba’s growing list of attractions.
“We’re reliant on agriculture, but in more recent times there’s certainly been more involvement in courting tourists,” Heather says.
What locals love about Kimba
Born and bred in Kimba, Heather is as local as they come. She’s just one of the passionate community members behind the town’s vibrant culture scene.
Heather is part of the Igniting Kimba Arts Program which helped bring silo art to town, amongst other things. She’s also one of the coordinators of the popular Grey Nomads Volunteering Program, currently on hold due to COVID-19, run by the Kimba Community Development Group.
She says there’s lots to love about Kimba, encouraging more South Aussies to come and experience the town for themselves.
“I love the community spirit here,” Heather says.
“I love the fact that we’ve been named as the kindest people in Australia (Kimba was officially named Australia’s kindest town in 2018), and we have a big proportion of volunteers working for the same cause – the betterment of the community.
“I would definitely recommend checking out the silo art during the day and at night,” she adds. With lights illuminating the towering artworks in the evening, it’s a unique sight to behold.
Heather also suggests a visit to the mural at the recreational reserve, as well Whites Knob Hill scenic lookout. Here, you’ll discover views over the whole district and town, and several sculptures, too.
“We also have a pub that does fabulous meals, and Eileen’s is a fabulous coffee and gift shop. Kimba Roadhouse has the best Indian curries in South Australia,” says Heather.
Visiting with kids? No worries,
“We have a couple of amazing playgrounds too, and of course we have the Big Galah which people don’t easily miss,” Heather adds.
If you have the time to venture a little further afield while you’re in Kimba, check out the Gawler Ranges or Lake Gilles. Heather says they’re well worth the journey if you’d like to extend your trip.
Where on earth is Kimba?
|Population||1050 (whole district).|
|Location||465km north-west of Adelaide. Halfway between Sydney and Perth.|
|Origin of name||The name Kimba is derived from an Aboriginal word, which means bushfire.|
|Famous for||Kimba is famous for its silo murals as well as being named Australia’s kindest town in 2018.|
|Nearby||The Big Galah – an 8m-tall galah.|