TiNA. Seductive, bold, fiercely independent. Where have you been all my life?
For twelve years now, every October long weekend, a DIY festival called This Is Not Art has shown Newcastle who’s boss. It was only last year that I finally cottoned on.
With my first trip my impressions were that Newcastle was the Canberra of my dreams; ocean on the doorstep and packed with delicious old buildings. More so, those old buildings were actually being utilised for interesting creative projects – little shops, gallery spaces and venues. These Novocastrians had it figured, and I fell hard.
This Is Not Art, with its enduring sense of irony is, of course, completely about art, and comprised of five smaller festivals. There’s the dubiously named Crack Theatre Festival, the tech-tastic Electrofringe, The National Young Writers Festival, the ever-cerebral Critical Animals and Sound Summit, for the best of new things for your ears.
A trip to TiNA is no easy feat, I’ll admit. The program of events for the four days is so unreasonably, optimistically sprawling that there is no way in hell you can see even half of the performances, forums, gigs, exhibitions or networking (drinking) sessions you want to. Such is the nature of this beauteous beast, and the weekend will leave the soles of your shoes worn right through while your poor, overloaded brain leaks onto the pavement.
The jewel in TiNA’s crown is a terrifying large and nauseatingly good zine fair and makers market – which dominates the majority of a multi-storey car park for one golden Sunday every year.
Shockingly, the entire festival is free, powered by an army of dreamers. See what you like, join in when you want, it matters not. And if you must sleep, campsites are available for spare change prices, topping off your cultural experience with all the earnest ambience of a Steinbeck novel.
It will leave you more inspired and motivated than three double-shot espressos, without the constricted blood vessels and cold sweats. It will renew your faith in the creative universe, and remind you that there are people out there who make things happen, irrespective of their bank accounts or hipster ratio. And it will make you realise that Canberra and Newcastle (apart from the whole ocean thing) are similar in many ways. The things that they do well (bar surfing) we can do too.
Canberra art heroes appearing at TiNA this year include irrepressible national treasure Adam Hadley, merchant of noise Shoeb Ahmad, and Exhibitionist’s original sweetheart Naomi Milthorpe. I’ll be there too – the nerd in a raincoat and sensible shoes, flipping frantically through the program, trying to choose between panel discussions or writing workshops and tripping over her boots while drooling over ageing architecture. Come and join the Canberra contingent, we from the ‘other’ sleepy city. Your October long weekends will never be the same.