Helen Hopcroft spends a year as Marie Antoinette

From May 1, Helen Hopcroft will pull on satin gloves, petticoats and a flowing ballgown and step out of her Maitland home dressed as Marie Antoinette.

Her reasons are unexpected and her inspiration was a misheard news report about a real-life leopard man but the most bizarre thing about Ms Hopcroft’s My Year as a Fairy Tale project is that she will live it every day for a whole year. 

“I don’t know if it was a real [news] story or not, I was laying on the sofa half asleep when the idea came to me,” the artist and PhD creative writing candidate said.

“I heard about this British SAS soldier who left the army and he was struggling. He wanted to live somewhere peaceful so he bought a tiny island in the middle of the [English] Channel. 

In my lefty, socialist upbringing, Marie Antoinette was the symbol for arrogance and power,

Helen Hopcroft

“And he covered his body in leopard spot tattoos. Now he just walks the shore – as a leopard.”

Ms Hopcroft said she’ll be driving her daughter to school, sweating it out in the gym, even wandering around the shops in full costume, it’s a 24/7 commitment.

But it’s more than that –  she wants to transform Antoinette, the symbol of gaudy opulence and ruling-class disconnect, into a regular sight around Maitland while promoting the city as a creative centre.

“In my lefty, socialist upbringing, Marie Antoinette was the symbol for arrogance and power,” she said.

“I’m a fan of rewriting stories, I want to change it. I want to make her a symbol of community, I want people to come up to me at community events, I want people to see her around town.

“Let them eat cake stalls,” she added with a laugh.

Ms Hopcroft spends much of her time trying to promote the city’s artistic projects and start-ups and said she’s pushing for Maitland to establish a dedicated museum space.

And while she lauded the work by the Maitland Regional Museum, which recently moved into Brough House, she said she’d like the city to invest in a purpose built space.

“My dream is a museum in central Maitland,” she said.

“I want it to use technology to teach history, I don’t just want glass cases.

“And I want to turn Marie Antoinette into a living symbol of the past, wandering around town, looking for her museum.”

Ms Hopcroft launched a crowdfunding campaign to purchase more historically accurate outfits from local artists.

She recieved partial funding from the Centre for 21st Century Humanities but hopes the community will help her promote the city through the project.

Visit myyearasafairytale.com/ for more information.