4 October 2023

Expanded site and new date to help growing KISS Arts Fest in Kiama

| Kellie O'Brien
Start the conversation
KISS Arts Fest Kiama

Tamara Campbell performing as Kiki at the KISS Arts Fest, which has an expanded site and new date this year. Photo: Supplied.

A former Wiggle, a Voice Generations contestant, a rock and roll circus man and a guy with a ferret will be part of an expanded KISS Arts Fest in Kiama, six months after its traditional date.

KISS Arts Fest, also known as Kiama International SeaSide Arts Festival, is traditionally held in April but was this year moved to 20-22 October.

Organiser Tamara Campbell said the changes were made to help with the growth of the festival, which last year attracted 15,000 over two days at Black Beach.

“It’s getting busy, so this year we’ve taken the decision to expand the site out onto Old School Flat and expand our programming,” she said.

“It’s always been in April, so we moved the time of year to October and … part of that decision was based on changes to some of the funding that we apply for.”

She said it became apparent Destination New South Wales funding wasn’t going to be available at the time they needed it to be, so they decided to postpone the event and move it to October.

“We were also eligible with Destination New South Wales for triennial funding, so no longer have to apply yearly,” she said.

“I didn’t want to miss that opportunity for what that could mean for the festival going forward.

“I am keen to see how it goes. I think it could be a really good time of year for the event. Although, it’s a busier time of year for festivals.”

READ ALSO South Coast festivals and events on the rocks as state funding axed

The event has come a long way since it began in 2012, when Tamara and her partner, Dave Evans, wanted to bring a little of the European festival flavour to Kiama.

Dave has performed since he was 14 and Tamara since studying theatre and media at Charles Sturt University and later Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in Northern California.

“We both worked on the European circuit,” she said.

“I had more of a physical theatre career and he had more of a circus bent on his training.

“I think one of the major things that inspired us is that so many European festivals were in these little towns that you’d never heard of, and you’d go there and often it looked dead, like nobody was there.

“Then when it was time for everything to happen, thousands of people came out of the woodwork.

“They all had this sense of really caring about that town and a real sense of ownership.

“We just went, ‘Oh my god, we really want to see that happen here where we live’.

“One of the original drivers around KISS – given we were naive and very stupid – was that we wanted the community to feel ownership of it like it was theirs.”

She described the first festival as “terrible” and “an absolute disaster” with very few of the 300 attendees understanding what it was.

“I think that because we came from a world where everyone knew what we were talking about, we didn’t really know how to communicate it,” she said.

“There was a language for it in Europe but people looked at you here and would go, ‘What?’.

“It was also an education process.

“It still is quite different to anything else that exists here in Australia, and we are really very proud of that and sticking to our guns.”

It went from being dispersed around the town to eventually finding a home at Black Beach.

“It was a total game changer and so we went, ‘Well, we’re just going to throw everything at it and do it the way we want to do it and people are either going to come or they’re not’, and luckily it worked,” she said.

READ ALSO Circus WOW in a class of its own for fun, fitness and friendship

This year’s expanded line-up will include traditional magician and funnyman Nick Nikolas, rocking circus and magic comedy act Wham Glam Circus Man, former The Voice Generations contestants and country act The Sulli-Vans, and The Ferret Guy, a strange man roaming the crowd with a performing ferret called Trevor.

“I’m excited too because we have what used to be Circus WOW but because of its success as a show it’s become its own thing, and that’s the Golden Gaytimes, which is all women and is fabulously funny,” she said.

“Equally, we’re supporting a couple of young Illawarra women who are doing their first street show, which is the Hoop Babes.

“On Sunday afternoon, we’re finishing out the festival with the Soul Movers band, which includes Murray, the original Red Wiggle.”

Other features include AIR KISS Adventure Playground, an artist-in-residence interactive program with The Flying Trapeze Circus Adventure, The Sensory House, Musical Adventure Playground and Adventure Forest that comes complete with old-fashioned Hills Hoist clotheslines representing trees, such as The Wishing Tree, Family Tree and even Dirty Laundry Tree.

Long running activities include the raft race, Stand Up For Kids, lantern making and Friday night’s Adults Only Kabaret, hosted by Tamara and Dave’s alter egos Kiki and Pascale and a host of new acts.

KISS Arts Fest is a free event in Kiama from 20-22 October.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.