TiNA’s into its third decade, but it’s lost none of its edge

Out of the ordinary: Crack X director Mel O’Dell says the call-out was for new ideas, new performances. Picture: Jonathan CarrollThis Is Not Art (TiNA) will bring the vibrant energy of the national emerging arts scene back to the heart of Newcastle for its 21st year.


The festival kicks off on Thursday, September 27, and runs through Sunday, September 30.

The early years of the festival, originally directed by Marcus Westbury, founder of Renew Newcastle, were developed within the walls of squats and long-forgotten buildings such as the Performing Arts Newcastle (PAN) building on Auckland Street. The festival name was taken from a piece of graffiti on the side of Latec House on Hunter Street, which at the time was the tallest building in Newcastle.

In those formative years, TiNA had a distinct renegade energy that reflected the local DIY scene of the late ’90s. It was intent on celebrating the ideas and work of artistic communities that weren’t accepted into the wider Australian arts institutions or festivals.

Now entering into its third decade, TiNA has become one of the leading emerging arts festivals in Australia. Produced by Octapod in partnership with longstanding co-presenters National Young Writers’ Festival (NYWF), Crack X Festival and Critical Animals, the festival has become a space to experience new experimental performance, engage in critical discussion, and connect with emerging arts practitioners.

Octapod director Christina Robberds says that as a festival intent on injecting culture into cityscapes, development of TiNA has been in direct response to the changes in Newcastle’s cultural and physical landscape. As Newcastle changes, so does TiNA – forever responding to its urban environment.

“I’ve been involved with TiNA for a number of years now and it’s been exciting to watch the local and national arts ecology develop. I love that TiNA has ‘grown up’ alongside the city’s revitalisation,” Robberds says.

“One thing that never changes though is the diversity of voices involved. The programming is always fresh and at the forefront of the emerging arts scene,”Robberds says.

More music: WE DON’T DANCE co-producer Sebastian Phelan.

CIVIC PARK PRECINCTOne notable difference this year is the smaller footprint. The festival will be centred on the Civic Park precinct, having developed new relationships withNewcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle City Library and Watt Space Gallery. There will also beevents hosted further afieldat The Lock-Up, Softys in Islingtonand Newcastle Beach.

Despite having “grown up”, TiNA still promises to pack a dynamic punch. The 2018 program is filled to the brim with the usual unexpected delights. Visitors might discover an installation in the Christ Church Cathedral cemetery, slip into a late night reading at Newcastle City Library (Thursday and Friday) or explore “ultra-positivity” through an interactive performance at Watt Space Gallery.

Local artist and Crack X Festival director Mel O’Dell says their programming has maintained a focus on experimentation.

“This year Crack X asked for new performances and new ideas. Applicants could be an established artist trying something new or an emerging artist trying something for the first time.”O’Dell says.

This year TiNA will also be joined by special guests WE DON’T DANCE, a Newcastle-based music and collaborative arts collective. WE DON’T DANCE co-producer Bastian Phelan says they are excited to be reintroducing a healthy does of local music to the festival, which hasn’t seen a music stream since the departure of Electrofringe and Sound Summit.

“I’ve been attending the festival since 2004. I’m a musician and writer. I missed being able to see really interesting music at TiNA and the sense of community that going to gigs creates,” Phelan says.

Phelan also explains that music has been a great medium to engage the local creative community.

“One of the main reasons we formed was to create an opportunity for more local representation in TiNA. Newcastle has such a strong music scene, with collectives such as Banshee and the Y Project putting on regular gigs, this felt like a good way to include more Novocastrians,” Phelan says.

“We want locals to feel like TiNA is their festival. As well as being an opportunity to work with and meet artists from all around Australia.

“For me it’s always been a super fun exciting weekend to meet and make friends with other artists. In the art world those friendships are really important.”

Program highlights Diversity is ever present: Octapod director Christina Robberds.

Other program highlights include the Last Fridays – TiNA Takeover at the Newcastle Art Gallery on September 28.Co-presenters Critical AnimalsandCrack X,alongside special guests WE DON’T DANCE, will be filling the gallery with installation art, poetry performances and live music. National Young Writers’ Festivalwill also be presenting events nextdoor at the NewcastleLibrary.

Another offering, ART HOUSE, sees Crack X join forces with Softys, a home turned maker space in Islington (20 Maitland Road), to curate an evening of circus, poetry, music and performance.

As a longstanding breeding ground where Australian artists are able flex their creative selves in front of a supportive and engaged audience,festival alumni include names such as Benjamin Law, Clementine Ford, John Saffran, and The Herd. You just never know who you might get to see at the beginning of their bright career.

Sneak peekSeventeen. Art House (Softys, 20 Maitland Road, Islington), Sept 29, 7-8.15pm. Swimming carnivals. Blue light discos. Messy buns. Legs and shorts and sun. It’s the aftermath of high school, it’s the relationships you made, and how they fall apart in the decade afterwards. Expect puberty. Expect poetry. Expect to be reminded of everyone. The showis fiction and distils two years of writing, thinking, and feeling after a terrible real-world event in which ahigh school friends was murdered by another friend.A 15 minute performance of poetry and music by Eleanor Malbon and Hannah Lord.The Best Book I (N)ever Read. Newcastle Library. Sept 27. 5-6pm. Four writers (Rafeif Ismail, Dan Hogan, Rebecca Jessen, Alexandra Neill) have a confession to make. Tolstoy? Haven’t read it. Infinite Jest? Nope. The collected works of the Brontes? Not them either. Four writers dust off their to-be-read stack and discuss the classic books they’ve never read.Full program at thisisnotart.org

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