City of Newcastle sets the scene for New Annual festival with launch of 2023 program

30 Jun 2023

Delivering unforgettable experiences in unexpected locations, City of Newcastle's flagship New Annual festival is set to return this September for 10 days of art, culture, and creativity.

From aerial artists completing feats of physical daring to an epic percussive performance featuring 100 local drummers, New Annual offers a diverse program of dance, circus, visual art, music, and theatre by local and nationally renowned artists.

Audiences will discover new performance spaces this year, including Newcastle’s iconic Christ Church Cathedral and a popular inner-city distillery, while familiar landscapes such as Civic Park and Museum Park will be transformed by large-scale installations and pop-up stages.

Now in its third year, Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said New Annual was cementing its status as a drawcard event for the city.

“New Annual is the catalyst for Newcastle’s cultural events sector to take centre stage alongside leading national events," Cr Nelmes said.

"Building on the success of last year's festival, which attracted almost 40,000 people to more than 140 performances and activities, New Annual will once again surprise, inspire and delight audiences as they discover a new side of Newcastle and its creative community."

New Annual will kick off on Friday, 22 September with an impressive opening program including 'What Will Have Been' by the world-renowned Circa Contemporary Circus, an exhibition by internationally acclaimed, Newcastle-raised South Sudanese photographer Atong Atem and 'Rhapsody', a one-of-a-kind cultural experience by Catapult Dance Choreographic Hub.

Civic Park will be a hive of activity as Strut and Fret invite audiences into the Spiegeltent for the extravagant 'Blanc de Blanc Encore', while a 700sqm maze of glass, mirrors and moving prisms will transport visitors into another world with artist Keith Courtney's spectacular and immersive installation 'Kaleidoscope'. Both Blanc de Blanc Encore and Kaleidoscope will have extended seasons that run beyond the end of New Annual.

A vibrant mix of free, low-cost and family-friendly events will continue throughout the 10-day festival, with highlights including 'Noise', a powerful performance by Dancenorth Australia in collaboration with local drummers, 'This Land', a musical showcase of acclaimed First Nations performers, and 'Just Not Australian', an artistic showcase challenging contemporary Australian nationhood.

Museum Park will come alive with a range of free events and activations including 'Ngiarrenumba Burrai (Our Country)', which is a series of First Nations cultural workshops being held throughout the New Annual program. A Community Day will take over the precinct on 30 September, with a vibrant celebration of diverse traditions, food, art forms, and cultural expressions being delivered as part of a two-year grant from Multicultural NSW.

Newcastle's Civic Theatre will host a dynamic range of performances and events throughout New Annual, including gigs by award-winning pop icon Kate Ceberano accompanied by the George Ellis Orchestra and popular folk rock five-piece Boy and Bear, as well as a moving production of 'Good Mourning' by Tantrum Youth Arts, backstage tours and Civic Cinema screenings.

The untold inside story of Newcastle rock royalty Silverchair will also be shared for the first time, with drummer Ben Gillies and bassist Chris Joanou in conversation at the Civic Theatre for the official launch of their new memoir Love & Pain.

Newcastle artists, musicians and creatives will be in the spotlight across the New Annual festival, which was conceived with a vision to celebrate the depth of talent in the city's thriving cultural and arts sector.

Councillor Carol Duncan said New Annual highlights Newcastle’s identity as a creative hub with a vibrant cultural heritage.

"City of Newcastle is committed to supporting local artists and organisations through flagship events such as New Annual, which provide a high-profile platform to showcase their talents," Cr Duncan said.

"More than half of the programming during the past two New Annual festivals was delivered by local artists, offering a vital economic boost for Newcastle’s recovering creative arts and live music sectors that were heavily impacted by COVID-19.

"I can't wait to do it all again this September and look forward to seeing our local artists on the bill alongside some of the best arts and cultural practitioners from across Australia."

This year's local programming will include Novocastrian-born award-winning playwright Ang Collins, who was selected as part of the local "Made New" program to premiere her Newcastle-based play, Spewy, at New Annual.

The play will be performed at Earp Distilling Co and follows the romantic journey of two twenty-somethings navigating their place in our vibrant city.

"I've been thinking about writing a play like Spewy - a funny, no-frills Newy-centric rom-com - for a number of years and I've always wanted to stage it in my hometown, for an audience of locals who will relate to the characters and story first-hand," Ms Collins said.

"Thanks to New Annual's Made New initiative, I was finally given the opportunity to write this story for a professional festival platform, and to bring it to life with some of my favourite regional artists.

"I am so excited to see New Annual invigorate my favourite harbour city and show the rest of the country the calibre of new work that we Novocastrians create."

Fellow Novocastrian Daz Chandler from The Parallel Effect will deliver the NSW premiere of ground-breaking interactive theatre experience 'Message From Another You' during New Annual, while local theatre maker Janie Gibson will transform the New Lambton Community Centre with 'Voices of Joan', a moving and irreverent solo performance unravelling the history of misogyny through a radical retelling of the story of Joan of Arc.

New Annual will run from 22 September to 1 October. Visit www.newannual.com for more details about the program and to secure your tickets. Book by 14 July to receive a 10 per cent early bird discount on most shows.