NYWF15 – Saturday

Photo by Adam Chandler

I get ready, nervous that no one will show for Clifftop Tales because it starts quite early and also involves a lot of walking. If SPF stacked (which apparently it doesn’t) I would have about a million hours of sun protection on my face. I bought a hat especially for this event, and attached a big orange bow. I am very excited. I have been checking the weather report obsessively for over a week but I needn’t have worried. The day is perfect.
Standing outside Staple Manor with water bottles and sunscreen, a small crowd gathers around me. Let’s be honest, a lot of working at NYWF is being relieved when people actually come to things.
We wait for Patrick and his dogs to arrive, only to discover that the TiNA app has sent some people to a totally different place. We walk quickly up the hill to find them and I feel like a school teacher fielding the rambling group across roads and down paths. We find Patrick and Bridget and the dogs and soon we’re sitting on the grass in the shadow of a military ruin, listening to Patrick read. Looking down across the city and the sparkling water stretching to the horizon, I decide this is one of my better programming decisions. Ernest and Ginny (festival dogs) agree.

We walk along the cliffs; the dogs are increasingly convinced that I have just programmed a walk for them. We sit in the sun, precariously balanced above the cliffs on the gently swaying walkway and families mill around us as we listen to Amy read. I post a lot on Instagram and don’t worry that I can barely see the pictures for the glare.
The midpoint of the walk is the surf club where we stop for ice cream. Emma tells us that this kiosk allegedly has the best chips in Newcastle. Several people buy chips. They are very good. While sitting beside the ocean eating a Calippo, I arrange for Tom Ballard to record a podcast with Freya Newman in Victoria and Matt’sAir B&B. This job is strange.
We walk back through the sunshine. Emma navigates us toward the Bogey Hole, a notorious swimming spot. It’s a shallow pool that was carved into the rocks by convicts for the pleasure of someone important. Emma says these days it’s mostly used by local teens (herself once included) as a place to make out with each other. While we’re standing there, we watch a girl be very nearly washed out to sea by the pounding waves. Slightly rattled, we walk on.

We finish, sitting under the shade of a beach shed. Hera, who had never set foot in Newcastle until a couple of days ago, reads a story about her tenuous connection to the place. I lean forward to hear her against the thundering of the ocean. I am overwhelmed for a while by my love for this city, in which so many of my happiest memories have occurred.
On the walk back to Staple Manor, the group dissipates. My skin feels all tingly from all the sunlight and the salt. Alex, Jake and I go to the bakehouse and I buy a large sandwich, an almond croissant and my daily juice (I buy a bottle of the same kind of fruit-packed juice every day of the festival and call it nutrients).
We wander back to Staple Manor and I eat my sandwich in the Press Room while watching Sophie and Tom count. They’re organising stuff for the zine fair but basically this just involves them counting quietly in unison and it’s adorable.
Once screenwriting is set up, I sit on the floor with my back to the wall and settle in to watch. I eat the almond croissant which past-me was kind enough to realise I would want desperately about now. Top tip: the almond croissants from Newcastle Bakehouse are completely amazing.
Under Magda’sguidance the group spend two hours plotting out a week’s worth of Home and Away episodes. I watch her reel in the group until they are all heavily invested in the lives and fates of the characters in Summer Bay. Within half an hour they are shouting things like “But what does that mean for the baby?!” and “But what about his wife?!” The highlight is probably when TimGoogles whether it is possible to do a paternity test in vitro. 
“Oh! It is,” he says, “But there’s a risk of miscarriage!” 
The entire table erupts in shouts of “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!”
I eventually have to kick them out because they are having so much fun they could easily have gone for a couple more hours. I set up Comics with Friends and Strangers and then almost immediately have to set off for the Foghorn. I have it in my mind that the Foghorn is a long way away. But I get two songs into Conchita’s self-titled album (Conchita) and I’m practically there. It’s strange to have everything so close together. Good strange but also I feel like I should be doing much more walking than I am.
Song writing Deconstruction is casual but really great. I am, as I always am when I see her, extremely impressed by Chloe and how effortlessly witty she is. I drink a beer and try to relax, quite aware how quickly the day is careening toward evening.

There is an elaborate plan in place in which Seb has borrowed beccamarsh’s car and one of the keys to our place in order to transport several dozen paper jellyfish to the ball. On Tuesday night, we made the jellyfish as craft therapy. It was very relaxing. Since then, they have hung in a strange alcove in our Air B&B nicknamed “the aquarium”. Today, they need to get to the ball in order to decorate it. I head back to Central to help Seb and beccamarsh unload aforementioned jellyfish.
It is when beccamarsh and I (jellyfish safely unloaded) are driving back to the house that things become complicated. My phone rings and then continues to ring constantly for about half an hour. Team NYWF have managed to misplace every single key that we are (meant to be) in possession of. The person who has the Staple Manor key has not given it to the person who should have it. In the process of making sure that Seb definitely had a key for Operation Jellyfish, zero other people have taken a key to the house. Everyone rings everyone else to find out if they have the key. No one does. At one point I ring Sian and she shouts “I DON’T HAVE THE KEY” down the line at me as soon as she answers.
(It is a testament to how smoothly the festival as a whole ran this year, that this half hour key palaver is probably the most prolonged crisis which occurred all weekend.)
Eventually, all keys with their rightful owners, we go back to the house and let in the half dozen people who are locked out due to the whole key situation. Over the next hour or so, I baste myself in glitter, beccamarsh fills all the glasses in the house with lemonade so she can make a scuba kit and we construct Jake an impromptu costume using leftover pieces of other people’s costumes. In stark contrast to last year (when I hastily covered myself in glitter alone) we all get ready together and it is very nice.
beccamarsh and I commit several minor traffic offences in the process of getting to Kaitlyn’shotel (literally across the road) to pick her up.  We load four people and a wheelchair into beccamarsh’s very small car (we once calculated that it would hold about fifteen otters, if that helps you picture the size). By the time we get to Central the interior of the car is covered in glitter which isn’t actually unusual for beccamarsh’s car. We commit another minor traffic offence in order to park close to the door. But look, officer, would you really fine us? We have a wheelchair in the boot, look.

Photo by Kaitlyn
I help Kaitlyn get up many, many stairs and then across a balcony and then down some terrifying murder stairs and then around another balcony. I am not very useful in this process and am pretty impressed that she and Chris manage to get herself and the wheel chair onto the second storey balcony overlooking the rest of the venue aka the least accessible DJ location in the history of everything.
I enter into a brief feud with the bar owner because he doesn’t believe that people are going to dance and tries to stop me clearing tables to make a dance floor. I want to tell him that I plan to dance for the ball’s entirety and that is going to require some space. He begrudgingly lets me clear a space, or rather I ignore him and do it anyway.
I spend some more time worrying that people aren’t going to come and get a bit stressed for no reason even though you really shouldn’t be stressed while wearing a tiara (actually, thinking about it, I have been quite stressed on every occasion I have worn a tiara, make of that what you will). To alleviate the stress, I dance. At first it is partly passive aggressive, partly because Kaitlyn’s DJing is A+, partly because right now I want to dance more than anything else in the world.
Then people arrive. And we just dance.

Photo by Adam Chandler
AH and Chloe look incredible and DJ amazingly. They are sparkly and otherworldly on the balcony above us. My boyfriend DJs and the whole room cheers for him and I am very proud. Brodie joins him and they bring down the fucking roof. For the second year in a row, the bar hosting the ball runs out of tequila.
I find Lauretta and Dave and Jake and discover that Dave has just encouraged Lauretta to skull a beer that Jake told her to buy. I imagine going back in time and telling myself that one day, at an NYWF ball I helped organise, Dave Warnake would make Lauretta Flack skull a beer. I get quite overwhelmed by the thought and have to go and sit quietly in a toilet cubicle for a while.

The entire ball is glistening and magical and I drink and dance and laugh and I feel so completely free. At this festival, I am all of me. I don’t omit things. I don’t hold back. I dance like I don’t feel awkward at all, because here I don’t. I cling to this night, once a year and then pack it away inside me to treasure for all the other days in between. When I dance at NYWF, I dance with a freedom I don’t feel anywhere else. I dance like someone who is completely content with the person who they are. Because maybe, on nights like this one, I am.
Photo by Lizzy

Just before midnight the lights come on, because Newcastle is a city ruled by Cinderellas. We spill out onto the street and stay for a while in a sprawling mess on the footpath before we meander up the road to one of the very few bars that is open until 3am. The bouncers, somewhat reluctantly, let us in. They are particularly unimpressed with Jake, for reasons that have something to do with his shoes. But we are in and we’re upstairs and we’re listening to a truly terrible DJ.
We obnoxiously occupy a table, set for dinner the next day. Luke offers to buy me a drink and I tell him to surprise me. I still don’t know what he bought but it’s nice to have friends you trust enough to buy you mystery drinks at 1am. We try to dance (sitting down) to the awful music by generally waving our hands around a lot. Eventually the DJs (truly, completely terrible) get so bad that we give up and venture into the cold night.
Walking along Hunter St, Jake and I hold hands and swing our arms enthusiastically. Neither of our partners enjoy swinging arms so sometimes when we are drunk, we do it together. We try and decide if we are more or less drunk than we were after Free Comic Book Day (when Jake, on being asked by a waitress how many people we wanted a table for, loudly proclaimed “WE ARE RESPONSIBLE ADULTS”). 
At some point on the walk to the sea baths, parkour happens and look, I’d try to explain parkour to you but you probably wouldn’t understand (I don’t). It involves a lot of yelling and bears little resemblance to the actual sport. For more information, you can tweet Alex, Casey, Lauretta or Beth and ask them “Parkour Dare”.
At the sea baths, we find a shallow area perfect for parkour. By this time there is hardly any of us, hangers on lost somewhere between the bar and the baths (partly due to an elaborate series of manurers in a park, designed specifically to loose hangers on). I swish my feet through the cold water and swig white wine right out of a bottle. I lie back and look at the stars and at the black ocean and it is perfect. Being drunk at sea baths with people you love is maybe the best feeling in the world.

Photo via Tim

Jake and I go and lie across the concrete stairs and look at the stars. We have a long conversation about which celebrities we’d sleep with if we were going to sleep with celebrities. In that moment, this is a very important and serious conversation (in contrast to the shouting about parkour happening nearby) and we talk with great earnestness. I completely forget that Adam Scott exists and instead nominate Edward of Jedward and maybe even John of Jedward at a pinch, if Edward wasn’t available. This later makes me quite worried about my decision making skills while intoxicated. Jake, despite this, decides we should be best friends. 
A man arrives at the baths, wearing swimmers. He turns on the lights and, ignoring us, starts doing laps. We all decide that this is a very clear sign that we should probably go to bed immediately.

Check out more great stuff including a daily comic by Suus, on the NYWF Press Room
You can support NYWF via Patreon.
Apply now to be a co-director and next year you too could be in charge of jellyfish craft
This year’s NYWF wrap-up video is available here.

Further reading

December – home

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