Ask Aunty Alex: NYWF edition

Photo by Bridget Lutherburrow
So I really love giving people NYWF advice because if life was a quiz show then NYWF would be my special subject. Here is the answers to a bunch of questions. 

I’m in Melbourne at the moment and it’s still pretty cold, it’s not that hot in Newcastle right?
It is so much hotter in Newcastle than in Melbourne. I will defer to Ewa, a person who actually lives in Newcastle: “Newcastle is currently t-shirt weather with a cardigan-grade breeze kicking up every now and then. Perfect festival weather. What that means for the weekend though, I’d hesitate to say.” The weather can change on a dime. It will likely be jeans and t-shirt weather with an extra layer needed in the evenings. Also it might rain randomly so bring an extra change of clothes just in case.
Please create a packing list for me that includes all weather-appropriate items and also something to wear to the ball. Packing list must not exceed items that total greater than 7kg.
  • 1x favourite nice dress/outfit for ball
  • Glitter
  • 4x dresses OR 2x jeans/shorts/skirts and 4x tops
  • 1x cardigan/light jacket
  • 1x extra light layer (stocking/layer-able shirt etc)
  • Toiletries
  • Underwear
  • Sunscreen
  • Shoes
  • Swimmers
  • Chargers

Should I really pack swimmers? Will I really swim at the beach?
In answer to this question, I present this photo:

Photo via Sian
Can I wear thongs everywhere, including to the ball?
Last year my friend Jake wore thongs to the ball and it was totally fine for 99% of the time except he did have one minor altercation with a bouncer but the bouncer eventually gave in so in conclusion yeah, you can totally wear thongs the whole time.
What’s the best way to get to/from the airport?
Ok so the airport is FAR. It is way out past a whole lot of giant piles of coal (true story). There is a bus that goes from there to the centre of town which is the cheapest option. It only goes about once an hour though, sometimes less often, so you really need to plan in advance (especially for going home). You can also get the bus to Stockton and then the ferry across which I did one time but that is a real adventure. Taxis are an option but pretty expensive, especially because Monday is a public holiday in NSW. But if you can coordinate and spilt a cab between a bunch of people, it’s doable (still not cheap). They’ll likely be a dozen festival attendees on your flight though so worth a try. Basically getting from the airport is really hard, I am sorry. There is no easy answer.

I am flying to Sydney. How do I get to Newcastle by train?
Catch the airport train from Sydney airport to central then head toward the low numbered platforms (usually 1-7). Trains to Newcastle leave once an hour. They’re about $7 and you should be able to buy a ticket at the station. Get off at Hamilton Station in Newcastle and change to a shuttle bus into town. Yes, it is actually easier to get from Sydney airport to Newcastle than from Newcastle airport to Newcastle, I don’t understand why either.
How do I get around? What’s the deal with buses?
Mostly you can walk! The farthest venues are a fifteen to twenty-minute walk from each other so mostly you can navigate the festival on foot. The buses in the CBD are free so you can get one up the road for nothing. Only they are really unreliable so this is not a thing you will do at all. Just walk.

What if no one wants to be my friend?
So when I first came to NYWF I knew zero people and I was terrified that I would have an awful time. I arrived in Newcastle and I walked into the first event and literally within an hour I met all these people (without even being all that brave). Those people are still my friends today. They’re some of my best friends. It’s easy to say, but NYWF is just… different. No one is in their comfort zone so somehow it’s easy to step a little out of yours. And lots of people go without really knowing anyone and everyone goes wanting to make friends and somehow it just happens? People will want to be your friend. I want to be your friend. Come say hi.

I don’t even remember who took this
I’ve seen someone I want to be friends with, how do I introduce myself and not be creepy?
Just go say hi! For real, just go up to them and say that you think they are cool. Also as I will address in a moment, everyone at this damn festival has imposter syndrome and no one is going to be mad at you for telling them that they are nice. It won’t be weird. Mostly just stop worrying that it will be weird? Don’t worry about it. That is my advice.
Will I find my happily ever after at the NYWF Ball?
I’m not promising anything but I do know a fairly large number of couples who met at NYWF. Including me and my boyfriend. And for every long term couple, the festival boats several dozen happy festival flings. Just do the friend making thing and be open to whatever comes your way!
WTF should I wear to the ball.
The theme this year is “Into the Labyrinth”. First of all Sian, who officially speaks for the festival, would like it on record that: “BALL COSTUMES ARE EASY, EVERYONE STOP BEING A WUSS”. My main advice is don’t panic! It is ok if you just wear a nice dress. It is also ok if you go all out and construct an elaborate DIY costume entirely from wire and cellophane (literally me). Just think fantasy/goblin/Bowie/glitter. If in doubt, always glitter. Also you could just wear a mask? Lots of people are doing that. Wear something that makes you feel comfortable and cute and happy. 

What kind of dancing is expected?
At the ball, I feel like I am the best possible version of myself. The most confident, happy, sparkly me that I can be. At the ball, I am a person who does not worry or second-guess herself. I am the kind of person who laughs with her whole body and dances with her soul. I assume this answers the question.

Photo by Adam Chandler

I am not at all prepared for my reading/panel.
Basically, as long as you put your heart into it people will like it. Again, it’s hard to explain but NYWF is magical. It is the most forgiving, responsive, welcoming audience you could wish for. Be yourself. That’s why they asked you to come.
They should not have asked me to do a reading/panel because I am actually very bad and dumb and help I am a fake and should not be here.
Hey so literally every single person in the whole program thinks this? Like… all of them? If you don’t believe me, ask some of them. This will also help you make friends. Most importantly, they would not have asked you to be an artist at the festival if they did not think you were deserving of it. For real. I know because I got to make those calls for a couple of years and I can tell you that we thought every single person in the program was a beautiful and shining ball of brilliance and we loved and believed in all of you.

I’m not on any readings/panels because they rejected my application and I’m a bit sad about it.
This is ok! It is so ok. But it is great that you are coming! There are so many ways that you can still be involved. And do not think that being rejected means that you are not a valuable part of the community or that you don’t have opinions that people want to hear. They have to make some really hard calls to put that program together and I can say with confidence that rejecting you was a tough call. They are all tough calls. But also, you have zero commitments and can sleep in and swim and have long breakfasts and lie in the sun instead of going to a panel, if you want to. And isn’t that going to be just THE BEST. I used to worry a lot about whether or not they would accept my application. This is my first year going without any commitments and I am so excited. Some of the best conversations I have heard at NYWF have been with friends over drinks. You’ve just got more time for the good stuff.
How do I get honours work done while I’m there?
I am going to pretend that it is possible to get honours work done while in Newcastle because otherwise lots of people I like would not come because of their honour. Yeah! You can totally get honours work done! You will not be at all hungover and sun drunk! Promise!
If there are late program/time/venue changes, where will those changes be announced?
Check the TiNA website/app! It’s the best place for up to the minute info.
What/where is good food?
I don’t know why you guys think I have food tips, for the last two years I subsisted almost solely on chips (often eating while walking) and before that I lived in Newcastle and batch cooked pasta bake. But: Scotties for fish and chips. Good Brother for toasties. One Penny Black for coffee. Ground Floor if you want all your drinks in jars. Newcastle Bakery for cheap sandwiches and amazing almond croissants. Wandering into whatever cafe is closest and looks good if you want to feel free and happy.

Photo via Lizzy
Is there somewhere I can charge my phone?
Like, most venues probably, if you ask nicely? Just find a power point and plug in.
Where should I avoid?
Mostly try and avoid walking around by yourself at night. Newcastle is a lovely and beautiful place but also it can be pretty rough and even a little scary. Be careful. Stick with pals. 

Will I get shouted at out of a car?
Yes. Almost 100% yes. I have no idea why this is. Mostly it’s pretty stupid and kinda funny but also being shouted at by a stranger is never the best. And if you’re alone at night it is not nice. So try not to be alone at night and also just be aware someone will probably shout at you out of a car?
What if I just want to sit somewhere quietly for half an hour?
The baths! Pack your swimmers. They have these really nice steps that are comfy to sit on and it’s so idyllic and lovely. There’s lots of nice cafes that are good for sitting in dappled sunlight and reading. Plus I am a fan of the lawn outside Customs, which is very green and soft.
Where can I get a timeturner-like device that allows me to be in multiple places at once?
This year I am planning to be one of those people who skips panels to go swimming because I have never been that person before so idk maybe just go swimming instead?

Still have a question? Hit me up on Twitter.

Photo by Bridget Lutherburrow

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year