New Annual brings city to life with busy opening weekend of cultural events

12 Feb 2021

City of Newcastle’s inaugural festival of arts and culture will officially get underway today with a mix of live music, quirky theatrics and thought-provoking visual and performing art.

The first iteration of New Annual offers an eclectic and dynamic program running from 12 to 21 February, kicking off with a packed schedule of free and ticketed events this weekend.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said more than 100 individual event sessions including over 50 free activities throughout the 10-day period will allow everyone to experience the fun and festival atmosphere of the City’s newest flagship event.

“In 2019 we embarked on an ambitious journey to create and deliver a first-class cultural festival, which will one day become a leading arts event on the national calendar,” Cr Nelmes.

“Funding from Create NSW has assisted with the planning and delivery of this inaugural event, including the commissioning of five festival-specific works from local artists and companies, and we thank the NSW Government and the Minister for the Arts Don Harwin for their support.

“Months of planning and hard work will culminate this weekend in a dynamic event with broad appeal, attracting new audiences to the wealth of talent that exists within our thriving grassroots arts and cultural scene.

“Our focus for the program has been to provide a mix of free and ticketed events, which will ensure every member of our community can enjoy the New Annual experience, and I can’t wait to see everything it has in store for us.”

New Annual’s 10-day program will feature more than 100 artists involved in dance, live music, art displays, exhibitions, talks, workshops and community activations.

The opening weekend includes a fantastic line-up of ticketed shows as well as plenty of free events in the city, such as the Olive Tree @ New Annual market in Civic Park, the first of the Locally Made and Played live music shows across 16 Newcastle venues and family-friendly Up and Up street art workshops in Museum Place.

Cr Nelmes said the festival offered a diverse and inclusive program, with City of Newcastle working collaboratively with members of local indigenous communities including Worrimai man Luke Russell, a member of the Guraki Aboriginal Advisory Committee, to ensure it also reflected Newcastle’s rich indigenous culture.

“New Annual provides a vehicle through which we can tell our city’s story, share our histories and understand our identity,” Cr Nelmes said.

“The Awabakal and Worrimai communities have cared for this country we call Newcastle for more than 60,000 years and have carried rich and diverse arts and cultural practices and knowledge through many generations to contemporary life.

“New Annual is committed to working alongside the local Aboriginal community to provide a space to understand and celebrate the extraordinary contribution of our indigenous population to our city life.”

One of the spaces being used to explore these cultural practices will be the ‘Pavilion of Sand’ in Wheeler Place, where a range of free workshops led by representatives of the Worrimai and Awabakal communities and demonstrations will be on offer throughout the festival including net weaving, song and dance demonstrations and an Awabakal language workshop and storytelling.

An exhibition of significant Aboriginal artists from around Australia, curated by Emily McDaniel, will be on show at Newcastle Art Gallery, while Speaking in Colour will deliver weaving workshops to create three sculptures inspired by the coastal landscapes of the Awabakal and Worrimai country.

Newcastle Museum will also provide an insight into traditional cultural life with its Nourishing Waters exhibition, which gives viewers a glimpse into the cultural practices and stories behind the fishing tree, spear and kuueeyung (traditional canoe) that are on permanent display.

The exhibition uses a viewer’s smartphone to deliver an augmented reality experience where they can see and hear how the Worrimai people worked in close community to fish for food in the rivers and bays of Mulumbimba (Newcastle).

The augmented reality experience is voiced (partly in language) by Mr Russell, who said New Annual provided the perfect opportunity to share traditional practices with the wider community.

“As we continue to reawaken the knowledge and stories of the Worrimai people, we are thankful to have the continued support of City of Newcastle,” Mr Russell said.

“Working towards the New Annual to showcase our old people’s traditional practices has been another exciting step forward for us and City of Newcastle.”

New Annual’s program has been designed with the flexibility to operate as a COVID-19 Safe event. To find out more visit

New Annual - Opening Weekend FREE Events 


All day 

  • Chalk the Walk, Newcastle CBD
  • Makers & Traders Audio Station and Map, starts at Civic Digest

From 9am - The Savage Divide, The Owens Collective

From 10am 

  • We Can Be Heroes and VOID, Newcastle Art Gallery
  • Up & Up: Create Your Place, Museum Lawn
  • The Olive Tree Market at New Annual, Civic Park
  • Pavilion of Sand: Net weaving workshops, Wheeler Place
  • The Hangar: Family Fun, Civic Park
  • 1x4, Nourishing Waters and Sea, Space & Beyond, Newcastle Museum
  • False Sense of Security, The Lock-Up

10.30am - Art Cart with Jasmine Craciun, Newcastle Art Gallery

2pm - VOID: Opening Weekend Talk, Newcastle Art Gallery

3pm - Meet the Artists: Pony Express & False Sense of Security, The Lock-Up

5pm - Civic Bar Beats: DJ Chuan

7.30pm - The Looby Film, Civic Playhouse


All day 

  • Chalk the Walk, Newcastle CBD
  • Makers & Traders Audio Station and Map, starts at Civic Digest

From 9am - The Savage Divide, The Owens Collective

From 10am 

  • We Can Be Heroes and VOID, Newcastle Art Gallery
  • Up & Up: Create Your Place, Museum Lawn
  • Pavilion of Sand: Eel and fish trap weaving workshops, Wheeler Place
  • 1x4, Nourishing Waters and Sea, Space & Beyond, Newcastle Museum
  • The Savage Divide, The Owens Collective

From 11am - False Sense of Security, The Lock-Up

4pm - Civic Bar Beats: DJ Tone