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Full program unveiled one month out from inaugural New Annual festival

An intimate art gallery performance by a renowned Australian musician, an augmented reality experience celebrating indigenous culture and a discussion on women in leadership with Australia’s first female Prime Minister feature in the second program announcement for City of Newcastle’s inaugural arts festival, New Annual.


With one month until the 10-day event kicks off on February 12, tickets have gone on sale and the full program has been revealed, with more than 50 events set to showcase over 100 visual and performing artists.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said New Annual provided an opportunity for locals and visitors to discover new work, new perspectives and new performance spaces across the city.

“New Annual represents Newcastle’s time to shine – through our local artists, through our city’s creative spaces and most importantly, through rich and engaging stories,” Cr Nelmes said.

“Supporting and delivering cultural and community programs, events and live music is key to progressing our vision of Newcastle as a smart, liveable and sustainable global city.

“The festival will feature local and visiting artists sharing music, dance, contemporary performance and visual art, showcasing our community’s journey of self-expression, resilience and recovery, and highlighting Newcastle’s identity as a creative hub with a vibrant cultural heritage.”

Highlights of the program include an event presented by Newcastle Writers Festival, which will see former Prime Minister Julia Gillard discuss her latest book and the lessons that can be learned from women leaders.

Fans of iconic Australian singer songwriter and lead singer of much-loved band Something For Kate, Paul Dempsey, will get to see him like never before during an up-close-and-personal performance at Newcastle Art Gallery, while a range of Indigenous cultural items at Newcastle Museum will be enhanced via an augmented reality experience incorporating music, narration, animation and storytelling.

Newcastle’s iconic Hazy Cosmic Jive recording studio will provide a musical showcase of homegrown talent, while various street art activations will bring key outdoor locations to life. An open artist studio trail featuring some of Newcastle’s most dynamic independent art spaces will also offer a hands-on insight into the creative processes of a visual artist.

These events complement major commissions from local artists and companies revealed during the first program announcement in October last year. Feature performances from Curious Legends and Catapult Choreographic Hub and pop-up venues and installations in Civic Park and Wheeler Place will showcase the best of Newcastle’s creative arts, while visiting artists like Feras Shaheen and Omega Ensemble will deliver a range of compelling works.

Cr Nelmes said New Annual has an eclectic and ambitious program designed to inspire, delight and encourage contemplation as it explores both light-hearted and more serious themes.

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

“It will shine a spotlight on Newcastle’s reputation as a creative city where ambitious and accessible contemporary art and culture grow and thrive within a prosperous, diverse and resilient community.

“Over time the festival will grow to become a significant generator of cultural tourism, using arts and culture to share the city’s stories with the world.”

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

New Annual Program Highlights

Newcastle Writers Festival and New Annual present Julia Gillard: Women & Leadership

6pm Saturday 13 February, The Arena NEX

Join the Newcastle Writers Festival’s first live event of 2021 featuring former prime minister Julia Gillard, who will discuss her most recent book Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons, which was co-written with economist Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

We Can Be Heroes: Live with Paul Dempsey

7pm Sunday 14 February, Newcastle Art Gallery

To mark the closing weekend of We Can Be Heroes: a backstage pass, Newcastle Art Gallery and New Annual present an intimate gig with one of the exhibition’s subjects, Paul Dempsey, who is the singer, guitarist and songwriter for one of Australia’s most successful and respected bands, Something for Kate.

Awkward - Catapult Choreographic Hub

7.30pm Thursday 11 / Friday 12 / Saturday 13 February, Concert Hall, City Hall

Set at a party, Awkward follows the story of a bunch of characters with distinctive personalities meeting for the first time: the introvert, extrovert, the hanger-on, and the in-lust. What can go wrong?

Hazy Cosmic Jive artist showcase

Friday 12 February, The Lock-Up

A celebration of homegrown talent from Newcastle’s iconic Hazy Cosmic Jive recording studio, featuring award-winning local artist Amy Vee and others. Presented as part of the Made in Newcastle project.

Chalk the Walk

12 – 21 February, various locations throughout the CBD

A temporary 3D artwork trail installed in key outdoor locations in the city centre to illuminate the streets, featuring internationally renowned Central Coast artist Jenny McCracken.

Wylaa Buuranliyn and Veara present Nourishing Waters

12 – 21 February, Newcastle Museum

Incorporating music, narration, animation and storytelling, this augmented reality experience complements existing Indigenous cultural items located in the Newcastle Museum including a traditional canoe, a traditional spear and a culturally significant fishing tree.


7pm Saturday 13 February, The Royal Exchange

An all-new, dynamite, late night romp with a heady mix of burlesque, circus, drag, sideshow and magic, OMG WTF is a celebration of that weird feeling in your stomach when you don’t know whether to look away or stare on in awe.

Artist open studio trail

From 1pm Saturday 20 February, Hudson St Hum, Newcastle Art Space & Creator Incubator

1-3pm Hudson Street Hum community art mural. Two one-hour sessions, participants will work on a square tile creating their own individual artwork that is then jigsaw-fit into one large artwork curated by artist Kiasmin Burrell.

3-5pm Newcastle Art Space. A masterclass event and open studios showcasing a rich and diverse array of local artists.

5pm onwards Creator Incubator. Open studios with various artists doing one-hour demonstrations. A Gin Bar setup with fundraising barbecue or food truck plus live music.


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