How to Volunteer at Newcastle Writers Festival by Brooke Tunbridge

The Newcastle Writers Festival is happening 6th-8th April this year, and here's your chance to get involved! The perks of volunteering at the NWF is that you'll meet like-minded people, be able to attend free sessions, and get a free NWF t-shirt, all while giving your time to better the community of Newcastle.

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Gallery: Grow Your Own Fest by Brooke Tunbridge

Grow Your Own was held in Forster last Friday, and although it wasn't at home, the Newcastle Knights flag draped across the stage for The Gooch Palms set, and the Novocastrians flocking to the front of the crowd, made it feel as though it was. The boutique festival is in its second year, but despite it being early days, the festival was incredibly well laid out and organised. A highlight for me was the inclusion of a Welcome To Country, where the crowd gathered in a circle, the front rows sitting down so others could see, and respectfully watching. 

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Dashing Dashville by Matilda Ferguson



Dashing Dashville

By Matilda Grace







To many it is just sunburnt country-side, bushland, a paddock or whoop-whoop but this is Dashville; home to not only the Johnston family but the Hunter Valley’s The Gum Ball, PigSty in July and now the Dashville Skyline Festival.


It is October long-weekend and it is going to be blood, sweat and Dashville finest. We hit the road at 8.15am and the sweat has already begun. A quick coffee stop and we are flying down the Hunter Express Way toward Belford.


Hearts are racing with anticipation as car loads of families, friends and locals line up to enter into a weekend celebrating Americana music and culture with a twist. Local bands from the Hunter Valley and Sydney with some international bands make up the exciting line-up.


By 10am we had set up camp (and by camp we mean throw swags on ground) and we were off to explore the campsite and grounds. With film camera in hand we captured our fellow Dashville campers and unwilling film participants as they awkwardly put up tents.


It was 11am when I first fell in love (for this weekend). For those early arrivals no one could miss Sydney duo Betty and Oswald. The couple opened with an indie-folk inspired set with every beat, note and tune radiating harmonious energy through out the crowd.


The Willie Wall stage may have been the smallest of the three stages Dashville presented but that did not stop Bagheads from a big performance bringing the stomp and rock to supporting fans.


Leo Rondeau and band brought some smooth Texan charm to the afternoon set. A performance that welcomed the Aussie crowd to the sound of his America. Firey red-haired Ruby Boots followed and despite breaking a string on her guitar her energy was electrifying.


Tears of sweat ran down the faces of the crowd as the sun finally started its descent and Dashville had a special way of celebrating the sunset with a collaborative set of famous Americana covers. The Sunset Super Round delivered a range of beautiful performances from the artists that had even the youngest of the crowd on their feet.


The Sunset Super Round is what makes the Dashville Skyline Festival stand out from all other festivals. Music runs through the Johnston family and at sunset it brought family, friends new and old together.


Love hit me again for the second time that Saturday when the four charismatic ladies from All My Exes Live in Texas hit the stage. Personalities shone high through their music as well as their charming sideshow humour by far one of the best musical groups with stringed harmonies and the unique piano accordion sound.


Papa Pilko and The Binrats hit the stage hard Saturday night and I am still in shock with what can only be described as an eye-opening had-to-be-there moment. Self described country rock n roll band these cowboys could play. It is hard to explain this performance but needless to say it was outrageously entertaining.


It can be said lead singer Cyrus Pilko took his frontman duties to the next level while bands mates watched on. Amazingly Pilko did not face-plant off the stage but it was hard not to watch on mesmerised at his hip-swinging, strip-teasing, pelvic thrusting pole dancing performance.


As Sunday began I was still crushing on William Crighton’s performance that topped off the end of a brilliant Saturday. Nighthawk Diner delivered the goods for breakfast with a smokey bacon and egg roll followed by another set from my first love Betty and Oswald with a coffee wait of an hour.


The much-anticipated Magpie Diaries with frontman and festival host Matt Johnston hit the stage just before midday. Born and bred on the Dashville property left local singer/songwriter Matt (Magpie) with many childhood stories to tell.IMG_4435

Sunday was packed with many local artists who delivered top-notch performances. James Thomson and band despite the heat brought a cool and chilled vibe to the many onlookers couched in the shade.


The beautiful Melody Pool was admittedly struggling with the heat but did not show any sign of slowing down. Paired with friend and cellist Madeleine Becker the singer was beautifully transcendent and confirmed a second record is in the near future.


As you did not think it could get any better the second Sunset Super Round had the stage filled with artists collaborating on yet another tribute to Americana music. It was defiantly a girl power performance with Ruby Boots, Melody Pool and All Ours Exes Live in Texas conquering the set.

As the sun finally began to set on yet another splendid day at Dashville Canadian band Bahamas created a mesmerising gospel-inspired set. It was angelic and heavenly having the crowd transfixed.


Later that night the delightful Wagons delivered the right amount of finesse having every one on their feet. The graceful Holy Holy followed with an electric rock alternative country sound. Their music stood tall with a high-energy performance from both band and crowd.


It was a weekend of great performances, friendly people, cold drinks and many laughs. I fell in love many times with every cowboy in sight and every amazing vocal performance. It was a dashing Dashville festival with staff that assured we camped in comfort. I look forward to next years line up and more great performances from local bands.







60 seconds with... Alexandra Neill by Kian West



 With Alexandra Neill

By Kian West

Photo Credit: Alan Weedon


So Alex, tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a writer and blogger. I like cooking, reading and Dungeons and Dragons. I do not like carrots.

I lived in Newcastle until early this year when I moved down to Melbourne (I know, traitor). I actually moved to Newcastle after going to the National Young Writers Festival in 2009. I fell in love with the place a little and decided to head there for uni. Melbourne is pretty ok but there’s a lot of things I miss about Newcastle.


What’s your role at the National Young Writers Festival (NYWF)?

I’m a Co-Director. There are three of us that share this role (me, Lex Hirst and Jessica Alice) and together we’re responsible for programming the festival. That means (put simply) we choose the people who’ll attend and decide what all the events will be. It’s an amazing job. I’ve had such a great time working with Lex and Jess to put together the almost eighty events across this year’s program.


We heard there is a ball, care to elaborate?

The ball is an NYWF tradition! It’s always a highlight. Held on the Saturday of the festival, it’s a chance for everyone to dress up and do some dancing. The theme this year is “Intergalactic”. Think glow sticks, stars, sci-fi and Davie Bowie. We will likely play a lot of David Bowie songs. It’s going to be a blast (rocket pun intended).


Assuming some people reading this will be kicking themselves realising they have missed the NYWF, If you could steer them towards checking out one young writer, who would it be? 


This is such a hard question! I’m therefore going to cheat and recommend a publication instead of a person. If you’re interested in young writers, Voiceworks is the place to go. It’s a magazine which publishes writing and visual art from people under 25 and it’s consistently amazing. If you want to be that guy who brags about knowing the person’s work before they got famous, read Voiceworks. It’s bursting with amazing new voices.


Who is your biggest inspiration?

If you’ll allow me to be really corny, my biggest inspiration right now are the people I’m working with on NYWF. There’s this amazing bunch of people working their butts off behind the scenes to make this festival happen. Most of us also work or study full-time so NYWF is done in the moments we can spare. It’s a labour of love. Working with everyone has been such a privilege and I’ve been constantly inspired by their ideas, enthusiasm and passion. They are the best.


Anything else Novocastrians should know about you?

I once got a concussion at an art gallery because I walked into a statue.


60 seconds with.... Chris Hearn by Kian West



 With Chris Hearn

By Kian West

CHRIS-HEARN-copyI might have argued regularly with Chris over different musical topics, back in the day, but I feel it was always out of some odd mutual respect of one another’s alternative perspective and I have always admired the path that Chris has taken to make his place in Newcastle and the world.

If you don’t already know who Chris Hearn is, you might have heard of his venue – The Terrace Bar on Hunter Street in the city CBD. A cool little ‘Hipster bar’ that started a trend in our town for something more than the generic pubs, hotels and clubs that once were all that Novocastrians knew. The Terrace is much more than just a bar though, it is fast becoming an institution for those in the community after somewhere with some substance that is different to everywhere else. A place you can regularly catch great bands, vinyl only DJ nights and Poetry! Yep, it even hosts a monthly poetry night on the first Thursday of every month – Word-Hurl Anti-Slam, a top night for those that like to rhyme

(Or otherwise).

But we aren’t here to talk about his awesome bar, we want to tell you all about the wonderful festival he is helping to curate as part of the This Is Not Art Festival (TiNA) and give people a bit of the low-down to what and why you should ensure that you are in attendance…

As are all small business owners, Chris is a busy man so we only got a few brief moments with him to shot fast these questions.


Before we kick off with the gritty questions about The Newcastle Weekender, can you tell us one highlight in your career as an event manager/coordinator/organizer? What is one success that you have everyone should know as proof you know how to throw killer parties Chris?

- Probably the Spring Every Season festival series I ran at the Croatian Club quarterly for a couple years, & especially the first Summer Vibes in 2011. I was really happy with the line-up, we have Thee Oh Sees from the US & tons of my favourite Aussie artists like Total Control & Kirin J Callinan. People came from all over & we packed it out!


So The Newcastle Weekender seems to have been made possible through the support of a Pozible campaign where you successfully raised $3840, way more than the $3000 you had aimed for and with 90 supporters. Firstly, well done!

We understand this is no easy feat for anyone and they can be a lot of work to pull off, but now the tough part really begins, coordinating a 3-day festival. What can you tell us about the long weekend plan?

- t's largely a DIY effort & there's not too much to organise, as we're working with bands and artists who are doing things for art not entertainments sake, and community over capital gain. This is a festival about coming together and having a cultural exchange. There will be 14 events over 4 days & two wonderful venues, with a very broad variety of grassroots artists, performers and DJs working across a variety of genres.


The Festival is being run by four of you is this correct? Who?

- I'm directing the festival, but I didn't want it to be all my taste, and had a decent amount of money to spread through a few creative communities, so I banded together some others, and I curated just under half of the program. The rest was curated by Mark N (Bloody Fist Records), Mardi Rowe & Ash Campbell (Babes Get Weird), Joe Alexander (Bedroom Suck), Nic Warnock (RIP Society), Evan Hill Porteus (Y202), as well as crossing over events with the solid Word Hurl Anti-Slam, & another festival our mate Edo was putting on. It's about bringing a lot of people together, essentially. That's what our aims should be, firstly, when organising events.


Where should people go if they want tickets?

- Tickets are through oztix. Many events are un-ticketed though, so please check out our program in the TINA program


Anything else you’d like to tell readers?

-Check out the TINA program!


60 seconds with... Simone Sheridan by Kian West



 By Kian West

Photo Credit: Nicholas Pitt

1. So Simone, tell us a little bit about yourself?


I am going through a huge life change right now, it is a funny time to answer such a question, as I am going through an existential crisis of sorts. Big things! I love DIY arts (like graffiti and, yes, street art) and I have a penchant for empty spaces (walls, buildings, green spaces, parking lots). I have been running a creative business called Street Art Walking (SAW) since 2011. I like to bring clever people together, to celebrate their talent, whilst brightening our public spaces.

I am obsessed with Detroit after visiting Michigan in 2013 for a global placemaking event. I completed a Bachelor of Fine Art (Hons) at University of Newcastle in 2010. I love one-off's and analogue technology and that is why the Polaroid photograph is my favourite medium. As an artist, I am very inspired to pursue some ideas I have been thinking on since being in Motor City.

2. As the This Is Not Art Director, what is your role in the Festival? 

Well, this year I am actually a Co-Director with Sarah Thrift. This will be the third year that I have worked on TiNA (Sarah too!), as I ran the festival in 2010, came back as a contractor last year to fill-in as Director and have been co-directing with Sarah since last year. It has been great to juggle the tasks of running TiNA with another person as there is just so much work to do!


We work with the TiNA Festivals to combine the many different events into one cohesive festival (or we try to!). Part of the idea is that you get kind of overwhelmed by all the goodness and keel over with excitement. Then you will probably meet someone who will impact your life in all the right ways. The role is so diverse and the request can sometimes be uncanny!

Essentially we are the glue that binds all of the TiNA Festivals together with Octapod. We meet monthly and email daily with the TiNA Festivals about the programs they want to present and then we stitch the events together so that they have venues, equipment and promotion in Newcastle. This year I have worked closely with the Creative Partnerships Australia MATCH Program projects, which has been an honour to see projects reach their crowd funding goals and have further support matched by the federal government.


I have also sought funding from Newcastle Panthers and The City of Newcastle's Pride of Place Program to produce a large mural as a visual arts project. Our festival is named after a graffiti tag on the Former Latec House, so I felt it fitting to have a seventy metre mural painted by a team of graffiti artists. A kind of homage to TiNA and it's impact on Newcastle streets.


I could probably write a thesis on the work involved with TiNA. Once, I even had to source ten bean bags in less that 12 hours during the festival. The tasks are sometimes endless but always worth smiling about.

And When you aren’t Directing a Festival, How do you spend most weeks?

Ha. I run around like crazy trying to see everything and support all the talented people I know. In the last year, I have really invested my social time into the local hip hop scene. I needed a new outlet that was still creative. It has been great to meet so many new friends and colleagues. I really feel I found a nice family with that scene here in Newcastle.


I like taking photos. And yes, only with my phone. I need to. I go for long walks to clear my head and I try to capture the overlooked scenes. I have a thing for plants that grow out of buildings, so I walk around try to find ferns falling out of facades.


Recently, I met someone special who is super talented and a wonderful creative human being. I am looking forward to the creative adventures and life ahead. After helping many their produce their art for the past seven years, I am so eager to make some of my own now!


3. We heard a rumour you have a new job and a new adventure… tell us a little bit about this exciting news?

Yes! I have am now the Community and Business Engagement Officer for Burwood Council. This is very exciting for me as career progression prospects were somewhat dwindling in Newcastle. This role solidifies my skill sets really well as I have been a sole trader working in the community domain for the past four years. I have been actively working alongside local council and state government as a provider of services for many years, this role is a chance for me to really grow in my career towards working for the wider community, not just the arts or creative sector.


Don't panic though! The role is part-time, so I will still have time to get involved with artist-run initiatives and DIY projects. I cannot say too much but I will tell you that on my "day's off" I will be "working" in one of the coolest co-working hubs in the Inner West! Street Art Walking will evolve and adapt, like it always has! There are still many inspired ideas and with moving to Sydney, more opportunity to see them live!


4. Did you grow up in Newcastle or was it magnetism? 

I was drawn to Newcastle via my best friend Jenna Blayden. Jenna and I met in Mudgee after we had both finished our HSC. I had already tried Sydney, but it wasn't for me, at that time. So I ended up back in my hometown of Mudgee wondering where I was supposed to be.. Jenna and I met and the rest is history. I am lucky that Jenna was coming here to study music, as I had no clue what I wanted. I ended up doing Open Foundation (as I got a poor UAI after being a rebellious teen) and my HD results all pointed to studying Fine Art. I, honestly, was scared to even go down that path. I didn't want to be a struggling artist. Well, apparently I am a struggling Arts Administrator.


5. The crazy thing about this little zine is that most people won’t get to read this article until TINA has already happened since it is on the long weekend at the beginning of the month. For everyone reading now that have missed out, who or what would you recommend them looking up or checking out after it is all over? Or alternatively, where should Novocastrians being looking regularly?

Please go to the mural on the Newcastle Panthers (facing King Street) and have a peep. Even share a photo with me (@streetartwalking). That would make my day :)


6. Anything else people should know about yourself?

I am running my own crowd source campaign to seek support for my work as a self employed creative person. Here is the link. It would mean a great deal to see the community I have championed for get behind me on my creative adventure.