If you’ve noticed some odd construction going on in Playfair Street in The Rocks, fear not. This isn’t a replica Old Sydney Town, but rather a 12-metre, four-storey windmill that will be the centrepiece of a madcap new and (mostly) free festival known as The Rocks Windmill.

Part-exploration of these colonial-era structures that once dotted Sydney’s skyline, part-celebration of the innovative culture of urban sustainability that has evolved in recent times, The Rock Windmill is a four-week festival that organisers hope will provoke, inspire and challenge our perceptions of Sydney today and in days of old.

Who knew, for example, how Millers Point got its name? Or that Sydney’s first theatre owner, former convict-turned-baker Robert Sidaway, asked only a bag of wheat from his theatregoers? “That’s why we do this stuff, because we want to get people to ask questions, but not in a way where they feel they’re being lectured,” says Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority’s creative producer Michael Cohen.

Around 100 artists and performers are involved in the cultural program, which will feature live performances, screenings, interactive projects and sustainable food workshops. “We have some kooky ideas,” says Cohen, highlighting the pedal-powered cinema screening early films, a guerrilla dinner from the Youth Food Movement, Carbon Arts and talks and excerpts from Bell Shakespeare’s current production of Henry IV, all taking place in the temporary venue’s 40-seat theatre. You can even grind your own flour and have Costa Georgiadis teach you how wheat is grown from, whose current crop is growing in the windmill’s garden.

Coordinated by the team behind Fire Water for the 2009 and 2010 Vivid Festivals, Cohen says The Rocks Windmill is deliberately smaller in scale and “a way to get people to engage with history”.

The Rocks Windmill runs from April 12 to May 12.

Info and bookings: therocks.com