Come on a magical adventure with Andrew Gott, community manager at property management company Equiem, who was lucky enough to attend the Heineken City Shapers Festival. Gott and the other guests boarded an exclusive train from Southern Cross Station to a Kensington warehouse where they were taken on a wild around the world adventure.
I wish I was spontaneous enough to jump on random trains, having no idea where I’d end up, but generally my journeys have a destination in mind.
Last Thursday’s 19.04 from Platform 3 at Southern Cross, dressed in emerald green Heineken livery, was the very first I’ve boarded with absolutely no idea what was in store at the end of the line. The ice cold beer handed over as I boarded was the second clue that this was not a Public Transport Victoria-endorsed wagon.
Twenty minutes after chugging out of Melbourne’s CBD, we arrived at a warehouse with it’s own abandoned train station. My companion Maheena and I took one uncertain look at each other and headed inside to a room clad in black fabric. We were handed another chilly Heineken and followed the teasing croon of a distant saxophone.
Following the crowd, we passed three stunning ladies in separate peep show boxes, lit in iconic Amsterdam red. The source of the sax was in the next room, a solo player in a spare white space, before we entered what appeared to be the event’s beating heart – a cavernous space with a jazz singer called Mama at one end and an enormous bar serving Heineken margaritas at the other. Cheery Deliveroo staff carrying trays of Huxtaburgers and lobster rolls milling in between, of course.
Doing our best to play it cool, we grabbed a beergarita each and got into the groove. In a Manhattan loft in a Melbourne warehouse, sipping on a Mexican cocktail made with Dutch beer, we mused on how well whoever was tasked with bringing Heineken’s vision of City Shapers to life did their job.
The bejewelled Mama continued to serenade as we rubbed shoulders with Melbourne’s own city shapers, until a voice over the PA informed us that the next train had… arrived? Surely the party wasn’t over just yet.
Before we had a chance to question, two Chinese dancing lions stormed the room as we were ushered through a door (which I know wasn’t there five minutes ago) to what appeared to be Singapore.
The air was thick with steam from a row of night noodle market stalls, as chefs cooked up pork belly bao, pad thai and sticky ribs and the drinks continued to flow.
The space was electric, neon in fuschia and cyan lined the walls and what can only be described as a tattoo glory hole (poke an appendage through a black opening, remove it five minutes later to find said appendage newly decorated by a hidden artist) sandwiched between tea leaf readings and a Korean dance mat machine. We couldn’t quite believe our luck, and New York felt like a distant memory.
Giddy with anticipation, we were pondering the existence of one more city when in burst a delegation of Brazilian dancers who lead us through to the third and final room: Rio.
The space exploded with the feathers, rhinestones and colour of the Sambadrome, our jaws could not have possibly dropped further… I was having so much fun living in the moment I nearly forgot to Snapchat it – the horror! Looking around, my fellow world travellers could not believe their luck.
The night was capped with a riotous DJ set from DJ Tom Loud’s Hot Dub Time Machine, a flawless succession of OG booty shakers beginning in 1954 taking us through to 2016.
The crowd throbbed it’s way from Elvis to Aretha, ACDC to Ace of Base, Whitney to the Spice Girls (As Ginger Spice would say ‘easy V doesn’t come for free, she’s a real lady’) with very little concept of time or place. The Heineken continued to flow, and not long after 2016 arrived we realised we had a train to catch back to the real world.
We’d made it from Melbourne to Amsterdam, New York to Singapore, and Rio back to Melbourne all in a night, jet lag free to boot. A truly grand event, it was clear that the designers had curated with love and care from the train pulling into Southern Cross to the seamless transition from one world city to the next. It was probably the most fun round-the-world ticket I’ve taken.