In 2011 the ukulele community of Newcastle got together to decide on what they were going to do in regards to the money they were raising from doing gigs at markets and local festivals. It was voted by most people there that we would hold a ukulele festival (The Newkulele Festival) and a committee was quickly nominated. Unfortunately half the committee then resigned when they realised how much work organising a festival entails. Nevertheless, enough enthusiastic and organised people were left to organise the first event in 2012 under the auspices of, and with a lot of support from, the Newcastle and Hunter Valley Folk Club.
In October 2012, on the grounds of the Croatian Club in Wickham, we raised a big, beautiful circus tent (thanks to Circus Avalon) and our first Newkulele Festival was born, featuring AJ Leonard and Jenny Rowlands, Bosko and Honey, and Azo Bell. It was a great success for a small festival, attracting about 2000 people and giving the Newcastle ukulele community a great sense of achievement.
The Committee saw sense in doing a festival every second year, and made an agreement with SPRUKE – Brisbane’s Ukulele Festival, to go turn and turn about.
In October 2014 we moved to a bigger location (The Newcastle Jockey Club) and, with a larger committee, put on another cracker of a festival. This time we featured an international artist, James Hill from Canada, as well as wonderful Australian performers such as Tyrone and Leslie, The Pockets, Bosko and Honey, AJ Leonard and Jenny Rowlands, Mick Conway and Robbie Long, Sam and Lucy Lemann, and Mathew Fagan. Again the festival used the Circus Avalon tent, and an enthusiastic and well organised team of local volunteers.
October 2016 saw us run our 3rd Newkulele Festival, again at the Newcastle Jockey Club, and this time featuring more international artists - James Hill and Anne Janelle (Canada), Nico'o and the Kapiolani boys (France), The Nukes (New Zealand), Peter Moss (England), Mark Nelson (USA), and Ukulollo (Italy). It was a great success and most importantly, Newcastle’s ukulele community felt proud to showcase our achievements, skill and passion for community music and ukulele wizardry.
In 2017 a new committee was established and the Festival became a stand-alone Incorporated Association.
The entire Newcastle City Hall was secured as a new venue and work began on organising the 2018 program and event.
The 2018 festival was the most successful festival to date, with over 3000 attendees recorded. Over 60 community groups performed, 2 open mic areas were available, fantastic markets stalls were operational throughout, more than 20 workshops were run, plus two amazing evening sold out concerts with interstate and international artists. The festival wrapped up in grand style on the Sunday afternoon with a huge One Song Sing event held in the main hall.
For the first time in the Festival’s history the incorporation was able to pay every performing community group a post festival fee, which was a real credit to the financial success of the event, leaving future organising committees in great stead.
Let's do it all again in 2022!