If you are not sure, where Wollongong is, and you really aren’t sure where the New Wollongong is let me help you out. Get off the plane at Sydney, and head 80kms south.
Take the scenic route along one of the most beautiful drives in the world called the Grand Pacific Drive. Expect to see some of the most spectacular coastlines in the world. Pass through the second oldest national park in the world, subtropical rainforests, and theatrical cliffs. Cross over the Sea Cliff Bridge, the cantilevered bridge that arcs out over the sea.
Then just keep a long line of surfing beaches on your left, and a mountain range on your right. You will then have arrived at your new destination, New Wollongong, called by the locals The Gong.
So why is it New Wollongong?
Wollongong was a steel city. Its growth and development was based on heavy industry. The city needed the skilled immigrants who came to foster the growth of the region. This is why the very nature of the city is multicultural.
Due to different circumstances, like the global economy, the city is no longer an industrial town.
It has grown and developed as a city of diversity, with an internationally renowned university. The multiculturalism of the city continues to grow as students and staff from all over the world come to the University.
Putting New Wollongong on the Map
Destination Wollongong bought some of Australia’s key Instagram Influencers to the city, to showcase New Wollongong to the world. The Illawarra Mercury, state that the “Posts shared by influencers during Instaweek reached 1.3 million people and received 356,579 “Likes” and 4,565 comments.” That’s not a bad start for showcasing New Wollongong to the world.
You could even follow us on Instagram for a bit of fun.
New Wollongong is even developing its regional online lifestyle program, In the Loop, to bring the city to the world.
And then came, Blender Festival.
This is the festival that New Wollongong had to have.
Blender Festival was “a 4 day immersive, engaging and expressive festival examining the blending of music, arts and technology in Wollongong.”
It kicked off with Mind Shift, a “single-day forum to challenge perceptions”. This can only be beneficial to the growth of New Wollongong.
We got street art, an innovative 3-day music festival, a celebration of technology in the city, and even some skateboarders.
This blending of music, arts and technology kicked off with a street party on the opening night. People came for the music, the food, and to celebrate the beginnings of New Wollongong. Skateboarders from Skate BoarderX, gave the new multi-million dollar mall a glimpse of its true purpose and kept the crowds entertained.
We felt the pain of the skater boarders as they fell but probably felt the pain more the next day when the mall was again a vast wasteland.
The weather was perfect, but perhaps not so perfect for the artists when the temperature hit the high 30’s (celsius).
Wonderwalls Festival, Wollongong
The Wonderwalls Festival again brought renowned street artists to Wollongong, to turn the mundane and ordinary into the extraordinary. Wonderwalls was a 3 day street art and graffiti festival. This is the 3rd time that Wollongong has seen the regenerative influence of street art, creating a living and permanent art gallery for all of the people.
As, Samson Clouston a Wollongong-born street artist, says of Wonderwalls and street art in Wollongong, ‘it is an evolution, as Wollongong transforms from steel town to the diversified city that it has become.’
We spent time each day watching the progress of all of the street art and taking the time to talk to the artists. They had massive projects to do but took the time to speak to so many people who were stopping by, intrigued to see the works through to completion.
Yours and Owls Music Festival
Yours and Owls, describe themselves as a quaint little coffee shop/bar/gallery. This 3 day music Festival was also the fifth birthday for them, and their biggest festival to date.
It was held in the village green, Stuart Park, the People’s Park of Wollongong.
The festival featured bands and artists, like Ash Grunwald who we had seen at the Snowy Mountain’s of Music Festival, a few years ago. The Preatures, The Rubens, Gang of Youths, and more all kept everyone in a state of celebration. There was also an incredible Tanzanian marketplace set up at the music festival to show what it is like for the people of Africa and how easy it is to change lives by giving.
There was a very good vibe at the Yours and Owls music festival, which was flawlessly organized. We know because we live across the road and were able to attend the concerts and see everything going on.
We were so happy to see Samaras, a local Lebanese and Mediterranean restaurant with its pop up cafe at the concert. Samaras had gone through some utterly disgraceful Islamaphobic vilification on social media, earlier in the year for no reason. What resulted is what New Wollongong is all about.
Immediately the people of Wollongong retaliated with support for the family owned business. What resulted was the #illeatwithyou campaign, where people let food break down any barriers. This has to be what New Wollongong.
The Future of New Wollongong
New Wollongong is finding its feet. It knows it has all of the raw materials much as it did when it was a steel city. It is now in the process of harnessing them all. We have bars, we have cafes, we have culture. Then we had the Blender Festival and the associated Wonderwalls street art, Yours and Owls Music Festival, and all of the other things we didn’t have time to see are opening the door for progress.
There is still a lot of work to go. I know we all have ideas on how to improve The Gong, but art goes a long way to helping, as would painting the shop facades in said dreary mall. Look at Burano Island off Venice, Italy and see how this place has a signature, and that is colour. Wouldn’t hurt if we had a similar signature to go with our living art gallery
If all of the changes happening in New Wollongong are playing with your head, you can always regain some karmic balance. Try visiting the largest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere, because yes, it is in Wollongong.
With the cities physical beauty, its multicultural population, the intelligence, and diversity, this just might well have you hoping off the plane and hitting the road to see what all of the fuss is about.
There will be photos of the artworks of Wonderwalls coming up soon.