30 November 2023

Nine things to do in the Illawarra this week (1 - 7 December)

| Dione David
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City of Wollongong Giving Tree on Crown Street Mall

There’s still time to donate a gift to the City of Wollongong Giving Tree. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

The countdown to Christmas is on, and right on cue, there’s a distinctly festive bent to the Illawarra’s social calendar including Christmas-themed dancing, some fanfare around the City of Wollongong’s Giving Tree, Christmas movies and Christmas decoration workshops.

Those looking for less Christmassy entertainment this week won’t be left out. Nan Tien Art Gallery is hosting an arts festival and the Thirroul Music Festival will hit four of the Northern Illawarra suburb’s best venues for live music.

Here are our top nine picks for the week.

All weekend

Banner for Nan Tien Arts Festival 2023

Places are booking out fast for this two-day festival of creativity, mindfulness and fun. Image: Nan Tien Art Gallery.

Nan Tien Arts Festival

When: Saturday 2 December and Sunday 3 December, various times
Where: Nan Tien Art Gallery, 231 Nolan St, Unanderra
Cost: $5 to $20, book here.

Visitors of all ages are invited to participate in two exciting days of arts activities, demonstrations, and workshops and take a look at an exhibition by the local artists. Interactive sessions include dot painting with First Nations artist Geoff Sellman, wall hanging art using natural materials with Janine Varley, Shibori print, eco-print on fabric, children photography with Dr Rowan Hollingworth, mindfulness in felt making with Linda Brown and neurographic art, which is known for its therapeutic benefits. Spots are booking out fast, so reserve soon to avoid disappointment.


Against a red background a child dressed as elf jumps while holding a gift

The Shellharbour Club is set to stage two festive, family-friendly nights out. Image: iStock/Deagreez.

Elf on the Shelf Dance Party

When: Friday 1 December, 6:30 to 7:30 pm
Where: The Shellharbour Club, corner Wattle and Shellharbour roads, Shellharbour
Cost: Member $10, non-member $12, book here.

The first of two exciting dance parties dubbed the “Festival Family Fridays” at The Shellharbour Club, this Elf on the Shelf-themed dance party offers the kids the chance for some fun on the dance floor with a kids DJ from 6:30 to 7:30 pm inside the family-friendly area known as “The Precinct”. This area opens at 5 pm, and families can have a bite to eat while the kids have a play.

Children are encouraged to dress up in Christmas-themed clothing, and parental or guardian supervision is required at the dance party. There will be a toy raffle drawn at the conclusion of the dance party (7:30 pm) with toys from Lego, Nintendo, Barbie, Nerf and much more, as well as a bonus gadget draw. The kids entertainment act “The Balancing Man” will also be around from 6 to 8 pm.


Illawarra artist Ian Gentle

Artist Ian Gentle lived and worked in the Illawarra from 1986 to 2009. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

The Gentle Project: official opening

When: Saturday 2 December, 1:30 pm
Where: Wollongong Art Gallery, 46 Burelli Street, Wollongong
Cost: Free.

The Gentle Project celebrates the life and legacy of artist Ian Gentle, who lived and worked in the Illawarra from 1986 to 2009. Presented across multiple sites, the project includes a major retrospective at Wollongong Art Gallery, an immersive re-creation of Ian Gentle’s studio at the Clifton School of Arts and the launch of the book Ian Gentle: The Found Line and a documentary film.

Join the National Gallery of Australia’s Head Curator of Australian Art Dr Deborah Hart for the official opening where you will hear from Linda Fenton on behalf of Ian Gentle’s family. Exhibitions will include Horny Sticks and Whispering Lines (2 December 2023 to 3 March 2024) and A Gentle Response (2 December 2023 to 25 February 2024) at Wollongong Art Gallery and Gentle at Clifton (3 December 2023 to 31 January 2024) at Clifton School of Arts.

Shot from behind of Santa riding tandem on a motorcycle and waving

Join in the spirit of Christmas at the annual Bikers Toy Run. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

Bikers Toy Run

When: Saturday 2 December, 11 am to 12:30 pm
Where: Crown Street Mall, 200 Crown Street, Wollongong
Cost: Free.

This annual event sees local bikers bring their gift donations for the City of Wollongong Giving Tree Appeal with a bit of fanfare, to help those doing it tough in our community. If you’re looking for the right time to make your own donation, you may as well come and see them in their best Christmas outfits on bikes decked out in red, white and green.

The bike convoy will start at Shellharbour and is expected to arrive at Crown Street Mall around 11 am. They will enter from Kembla Street (near ANZ Bank) and ride towards the Christmas tree in front of the stage. Following their arrival, there will be some light entertainment and speeches including from participating charities and the Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery.

Banner for retro Christmas disco at The Vault in Port Kembla

The Vault is creating the perfect lift-off to get into the festive spirit. Image: The Vault.

Christmas Party Retro Disco at The Vault

When: Saturday 2 December, 6 pm to 12 am
Where: The Vault, 72-74 Wentworth Street, Port Kembla
Cost: $30, book here.

As we enter the countdown to Christmas, it’s the perfect time of year to let your hair down, and The Vault is the perfect place. Ideal for taking all the work out of organising your own work Christmas function, or just for a night out, your host and DJ, Dave will spin the greatest tunes while you enjoy dinner, cocktails and dancing.

Your ticket includes a glass of wine or beer on entry, but it’s BYO boogie.

Banner for crafting eco-friendly Christmas decorations

As the season of excess approaches, The Tinkerage invites you to embrace sustainability and creativity in this eco-friendly Christmas decoration workshop. Image: The Tinkerage.

Crafting Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations at The Tinkerage Shellharbour

When: Saturday 2 December, 10 am to 3 pm
Where: The Tinkerage Shellharbour, 44 Buckleys Road, Dunmore
Cost: Free for Shellharbour City Council residents, $40 for non-residents, book here.

Say goodbye to plastic and tinsel, and instead, discover the joy of crafting beautiful crochet decorations using recycled yarn. In this workshop led by the talented instructor Bonnie, you’ll learn various crochet techniques to create charming little Christmas decorations that will add a touch of handmade beauty to your holiday decorations.

Those who like giving practical and sustainable gifts will also have the chance to crochet a kitchen scrubber cloth — a perfect eco-conscious Christmas present, a reusable and effective alternative for washing dishes. This workshop is suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to experienced crocheters. Bring your own fabric scissors, crochet hook no. 5 (if you have one), lunch, a drink and a mug for a cuppa.


Flyer for Thirroul Music Festival

The massive lineup includes international touring talent and local legends. Image: Thirroul Music Festival.

Thirroul Music Festival

When: Sunday 3 December, various times
Where: Various Thirroul locations, see program
Cost: Adult $101, youth 12 to 17 years $59, Child 11 and under free, book here.

Love Police, Spunk Records, Cheatin’ Hearts Records and Anita’s Theatre present this day of dazzling music across four Thirroul venues. See a stellar lineup and rock n roll, Americana, folk, gypsy blues and more at Anita’s Theatre, Club Thirroul, Frank’s Wild Years and Railway Hall.

The lineup includes international touring stars and local music legends. Thirroul Music Festival is the greatest place to experience unreal tunes among the surf, sand and ultra-surround sounds this summer. Your ticket gives you an all-access pass to all four venues.

Banner for Celebrate Diversity

Neurodiverse and neurotypical people alike are invited to this awareness event for people with disability. Image: The Form Movement.

Celebrate Diversity

When: Sunday 3 December, 9:30 am to 3 pm
Where: Towri Centre, Wollongong Botanic Garden, 40 Murphys Ave, Keiraville
Cost: Free, book here.

This awareness event in honour of International Day of Persons with Disabilities is filled with fun and delicious treats to champion the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities. All are welcome to partake in the festivities.

Some activities will require RSVP or booking, including the Scavenger Hunt and Terrarium Workshops. There will be other individual and group-based activities, a photo booth, a barbecue and baked treats.



Can Chris Flint get his act together and win his daughter’s forgiveness in time for Christmas? Image: Screen Illawarra.

‘Christmess’ Film Screening with Q&A

When: Tuesday 5 December, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Where: Gala Cinema Wollongong, 204 Cowper Street, Warrawong
Cost: Screen Illawarra membership adult $40, student $25, plus movie ticket $10, book here.

Hot off the back of a successful run at the Austin Film Festival, Screen Illawarra will be hosting a screening of Heath Davis’ Christmess, thanks to the Gala Cinema, Warrawong. Guests should arrive at 6:30 pm for a 7 pm screening followed by a Q&A with writer and director Heath Davis.

The film follows Chris Flint (Steve Le Marquand), a washed-up actor fresh out of rehab who takes a job as a suburban strip mall Santa Claus where he encounters his long-estranged daughter. With the support of his caring sponsor, Nick (Darren Gilshenan) and a young, sharp-tongued, musician in recovery named Joy (Hannah Joy of ARIA winners Middle Kids), Chris sets about staying sober to win his daughter’s forgiveness for Christmas.

This event is for members of Screen Illawarra – sign up here for a whole year’s worth of perks and discounts on upcoming workshops and events.

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