Your personal fairy godmother

Photo by Alana Potts

In my capacity as semi-official NYWF fairy godmother and festival veteran, here are answers to some questions about the festival.

What to pack


What about Newcastle weather!!!!!? Is all I have to ask.

Newcastle weather is notoriously changeable. I think we are probably due for a sudden torrential downpour. So first of all, emotionally prepare yourself for that. Secondly, if you get hay fever, buy some antihistamines. It looks like it will be hot. Like heading toward 30? This is extremely good news (don’t @ me). Also my friend Ewa (a local) said to tell you it will probably be “humid as hell”. It’s going to be swimming weather, is what I’m saying.

How do I enjoy the balmy days but still be cosy for the chilly nights by the baths?

A good sturdy cardigan. As long as it doesn’t get too chilly (and it isn’t looking like it will) throwing a warm-ish extra layer, like a good cards or light jumper, should protect you during late night adventures. Ideally, you’ll be able to pop into your accom between day and night, but if that’s tricky, pack your extra layer at the start of the day, so you can go til the wee hours.

What will I forget to bring that I really need?


I always forget my hat. Bring a hat. You might think this is a regular writers’ festival where sun exposure isn’t a major concern but you’d be wrong. Sun safety! Important!

Should I bring sunscreen everywhere?

Yes! Sun safety! My advice is to bring a larger bottle so you can slather up at the start of the day and then get a little one for your bag so you can top up.

Should I bring my own beach towel?

It depends where you’re staying but I’d say probably yes. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t fit it (you can always make do) but if you’ve got a small towel, throw it in.

What should I wear to the ball?

The theme is “Class of 98” so 90s gear is encouraged. If you want to create an extravagant niche costume but are worried it’s not that kind of event – trust me, it is that kind of event. But if you just want to wear something nice and put glitter on your face, that’s ok too. My advice is wear whatever makes you feel cute and happy.   

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 outfit/costume for ball
  • Glitter
  • 4x dresses OR 2x jeans/shorts/skirts and 4x tops OR combination of these
  • 1x cardigan/light jacket
  • Toiletries
  • Underwear
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Shoes
  • Swimmers
  • Chargers
Photo by Alex

How to get there/get around


What’s the train situation from Sydney like this year? How many modes of transport does it take to get to Newcastle?

If you’re flying to Sydney, getting the train up is super easy. Catch the airport train to Central Station and then hop on a Newcastle/Hunter train to Newcastle. The train to Newcastle costs less than the train from the airport (it’s so cheap). It takes about 3 hours but it’s a really lovely trip and the views are extremely good. The train will dump you at Hamilton Station, where you can get a shuttle bus into the city! Easy! So that’s four modes of transport.

Is there PT from the airport?

There’s buses! They’re slightly infrequent. Also it seems the bus situation in the city is a bit dodgy at the moment because they’re putting in a tram (lol Newcastle). I actually hate buses and am a bad person to ask but many people assure me the airport bus is very easy. There’s more info on the airport website.

But imho your best option is the share a taxi/Uber with several of the many, many NYWF folks who will inevitably be on your flight. Ask Twitter! Ask a Facebook group! This is a good way to bond/make friends. The airport is about 30 minutes out of the city so it’s not a great option on your own but it’s ok between a group.

Can I just walk everywhere?

Yes! The festival venues are all in walking distance. The longest walk you’d have is probably 20 minutes, but generally it would be more like 10. Buses in the city are free so you can hop on one but walking is generally easier.

I am driving, what do I need to know?

Quite a lot of the CBD has road works at the moment because of the tram they’re putting in (I assume to make NYWF attendees feel like they’re in Melbourne?), so some streets are closed off or one way. There’s more info about the road works here. If you want to start a conversation with a local, ask about this whole tram situation, locals love to talk about the city’s current infrastructure projects.

Do they have Uber there? Who can pick my drunk ass up?

Newcastle has Uber! If you’re staying in the city, your drunk ass should be able to stumble home from most venues (take a buddy though, do not stumble home alone). Uber is there if you need it.

Photo by Bethany

Where to eat


Best places to eat?

Sticky Rice does good Thai and has good vego options. Scotties is a bit exxy but they will lend you a picnic blanket to lie in the sun. There’s a bakery in the mall called (bafflingly) These Days that do the best almond croissants I’ve ever eaten. Good Brother do great toasties. Ground Floor serve everything on boards or in jars. One Penny Black is the only place that’s been in the mall forever and I hear the coffee is decent. My brother wants you all to know that Popolo Gelati is very good and you should go. If you want to go a little afield, Darby St is packed with options.

Where to buy food outside of diet-o-normative mealtimes?

Newcastle likes to insist that it’s a small town and not a city and therefore everything closes early. Especially because Monday is a public holiday in NSW. My advice is to buy a few groceries early in the festival so you have emergency snacks. Also eat when you get the chance – eat like it might be your only meal for SOME TIME.

Photo by Alex

How to make friends


Will you be my personal fairy godmother?

If you’re in trouble, I actually will though. If you find yourself worried or lonely and you can find me, I will find you someone nice to talk to. This is true even if we’ve never met. 

What if I see someone who is really cool and I want to talk to them?

Rebecca Shaw’s answer to this question is “nobody is cool, talk to everyone”. This is good advice. Take a deep breath. Just say hi.

How do I join groups of lovely people without crippling anxiety?

These days, I know a lot of people at NYWF and therefore it’s a little hard to explain exactly how few people I knew when I started going. In 2010, I walked into an event on the Thursday knowing no one. I took a deep breath, ignored the thumping anxiety in my chest and I introduced myself to one person. It was scary. But it was ok. That person is still my friend. As I type this, I am on my way to have brunch with someone I met that day. Another one of them is my boyfriend. It is ok to walk up to someone who looks friendly and say hello. It’s actually a very good idea.

Photo by Alex

What to do


What’s all this about baths?

Newcastle has these ocean baths and they’re glorious and a lot of my best NYWF memories are set there. I plan to go swimming an excessive amount. Also we hang out at the baths late at night sometimes and it’s really beautiful and peaceful.

Do I have to pay for events?

No! All of NYWF is completely free! You should book for some things (workshops mainly) but otherwise just rock up.

How to attend two amazing sessions simultaneously and on the opposite side of town?

Let me give you some advice about planning your weekend – do not plan your weekend. If you come in with a carefully planned schedule of everything you want to do, it will only make you stressed. Make note of a couple of events you really don’t want to miss (and I mean a couple). Leave yourself open to stumbling into things by accident or following a new friend to something or getting caught up in a great conversation over lunch.

How do I balance fomo with just chilling out and having a nice time?

NYWF isn’t just about what’s in the program (great as the program is). All the bits in between matter just as much. Take time to be with your friends and to make new ones. Enjoy the sunshine. Read a book. Go swimming. We’ve had a pretty bleak year. NYWF is a moment to remember that there is happiness and goodness and great conversations and pink wine and sunshine and friendship. As long as you’re soaking that in, you’re not missing anything.

Still have a question? Hit me up on Twitter.

Further reading

December – home

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