In what may have been traditionally seen as an odd pairing, a troupe of drag queens and an Ipswich bowls club have helped save one another, in more ways than one.
The symbiotic relationship is at the centre of an SBS documentary Bowled Over.
The documentary focuses on the North Ipswich Bowl Club and the monthly drag show Taboo which has been running there for the past 10 years.
Tucked into the corner of Browns Park this historic club is still rolling on, which is a difficult feat for any small sporting club, especially ones that only have membership to rely on and bar sales still set at 1970s prices.
Film maker Mandy Lake stumbled across the story when Jamie Dunn (of Agro fame) told her she had to come and see a fabulous drag show at a bowls club in Ipswich.
“So we did and it was incredible and we knew it was one of those stories that had to be told, no matter what,” Ms Lake said.
“It was one of the most joyous nights of my life and I don’t think I had laughed so much in years.
“Ipswich has had such a bad rap over the years and it’s not deserved.
“You definitely have got something special going on in Ipswich.”
Ms Lake has given people a glimpse into the world of drag queens, which is not something you might normally encounter.
“Ipswich is almost like a hub of drag, there are four active troupes performing regularly there,” she said.
“It’s like a family, you have to come and witness it for yourself because you won’t see it anywhere else.”
Flickchicks film maker Mandy Lake and Karl Eastaughffe aka Crystal Heart
Image: Renae Droop
Ms Lake said the drag queens have a huge following and patrons make them cakes for their birthday and one fan, who passed away from cancer, was buried with something from one of the drag queens.
Luckily being adored by fans young, old and otherwise is something drag queens like Wanda D’Parke enjoy.
Wanda D’parke is one of Taboo’s queens and an Ipswich resident also known as Ross Waghorn.
Mr Waghorn said he loves performing and entertaining people.
“I always tell people Wanda and Ross are the same person but Wanda gets away with more,” Mr Waghorn said.
“I’m a shy boy from Biloela but drag brought me out of my shell.
“When Taboo first started at the bowl club they didn’t know whether to look left or look right.
“But they saw how professional we were, we are not derogatory to people, and we are family friendly and the relationship works for them on a business level and allows us to have another platform to continue doing what we love.
“The patrons were accepting of us from day one.”
Image: Joseph Lynch
In Bowled Over, the documentary sheds a light on Mr Waghorn’s struggle with his health and his decision to have gastric surgery which saw him shed 40kg in a few months.
Mr Waghorn said it was the best thing he ever did and has had a resurgence in his mental health. While he may have lost a lot of weight he has gained and now has a positive body image.
“I went from a size 20 to a size 10,” he said.
“I used to have a handbag stomach but now I have a clutch purse.
“I’m much more careful now about what I eat, I don’t want to waste my $25,000.”
North Ipswich Bowl Club chairperson Des Whelband has works behind the bar, with a team of club volunteers.
“I have only missed one time and that was because I was in hospital,” Mr Whelband said.
“There is no money in bowls, the only thing that helps is the hall.
“The drag queens are quite a good bunch of people with, they look after us and we look after them.”
The documentary was commissioned as part of the Untold Australia program with principal production investment from Screen Australian in association with SBS along with production and development investment from Screen Queensland.
Bowled Over can be viewed anytime on SBS On Demand as well as live on SBS VICELAND on Sunday, 24 January at 10.10pm
Taboo celebrates 10 years of performing at the North Ipswich Bowls Club with two shows.
Friday, 19 February and Saturday, 20 February, tickets are $20. Book here.