16 November 2023

Nine things to do in the Illawarra this week (17 - 23 November)

| Dione David
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People at Albion Park Airport wearing Illawarra Convoy tshirts

This year’s i98FM Illawarra Convoy is here. Image: i98FM Illawarra Convoy Facebook.

The Illawarra is gearing up for a massive week which includes the Illawarra Convoy, True Story Festival and the Northern Illawarra Art Trail.

Kick off your Christmas shopping at the Wollongong Makers Market or get a start on your memoir with guidance from experts at a workshop at Corrimal Library.

In between a beloved children’s story comes to life on stage, there’s a major event for mountain bike enthusiasts, a concert from country legend James Johnston and much more. Here are our top nine picks.

All weekend

This event is not to be missed by biking enthusiasts. Photo: Greenvalleys Mountain Bike Park Facebook.

GV Block Party

When: Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 November, 7 am to 4 pm
Where: Greenvalleys Mountain Bike Park, 2926 Illawarra Highway, Tongarra
Cost: Non-competitors $80, book online.

Registration is now closed for the competitive element of the Greenvalleys Block Party, but it’s not too late to be part of the action. Your entry will get you access to the event, shuttles and a good time.

Over two days, mountain bike riders have seven timed stages with unlimited runs to set their best time with a variety of side events, including the NSW Freestyle Mountain Bike State Championships, Airbag Under Lights session and the ‘Tales from the Trails’ film competition at a massive outdoor cinema.

wollongong makers market banner

This year’s Wollongong Makers Market will have about 100 stalls. Image: Wollongong Makers Market Facebook.

Wollongong Makers Market

When: Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 November, 9 am to 3 pm
Where: Innovation Campus, Squires Way, Wollongong
Cost: Free entry.

This year’s Wollongong Makers Market will be supersized, showcasing the creative talents of local artists and artisans with a plethora of one-of-a-kind handmade wares of exceptional quality. You’ll browse over 100 stalls displaying outstanding examples of ceramics, knitwear, crochet and sewing, macramé, locally made perfumes, original paintings and prints, cards, hand-dyed clothing, handmade chocolates, leatherwork and woodwork, plus an absolutely wonderful collection of jewellery from fine silver to polymer clay designs, and a large, combined stall from the Illawarra Craft and Arts Network (ICAN). Local environmental groups will also oversee displays showcasing their work to protect native wildlife.

A wide range of food stalls with an international flavour will keep you fed and watered as you relax to jazzy tunes courtesy of the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music in a cafe-style lounge area downstairs in the Central building.

Ceramic spider in a crystal bead web by ceramicist Kieran Tapsell

Kieran Tapsell’s curious ceramics are an enigmatic part of the Trail. Photo: Kieran Tapsell.

Northern Illawarra Art Trail

When: Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 November, 10 am to 3 pm
Where: Various locations in Northern Illawarra
Cost: Free entry.

Following the success of the inaugural trails, you’re once again invited to immerse yourself in the arts and discover the studios of the northern Illawarra where art of all mediums is created. Over two days, you can discover local work in genres ranging from abstract to realism in oils, acrylics and watercolours, prints, photography, sculpture and ceramic, and chat with the artists about their work.

The trail itself follows the beautiful route wedged between the magnificent coast and escarpment from Bulli past the beautiful beaches of the Pacific Ocean and over the famous Seacliff Bridge to Helensburgh.

True Story Festival banner

True Story Festival 2023 is a showcase of some of the best creative non-fiction writing in Australia today. Image: South Coast Writers Centre.

True Story Festival

When: Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 November, various times
Where: Coledale Community Centre, 745 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Coledale
Cost: Various, book online.

This festival celebrates the skilful telling of real-life stories with relatable relevance and unique perspectives that may help readers navigate an increasingly complex world. In this year’s True Story: Stranger Than Fiction, you’ll gather with writers to discuss memoirs ranging from the humorous to the spiritual and hear voices sharing ideas about community resilience, cultural identity, local media and regional food, Dharawal language and First Nations knowledge sharing, and the courage needed to become one of Australia’s finest investigative journalists.


Plant growing in soil held in hands

The last event in the Shellharbour’s Mini Explorers 2023 series will be bloomin’ terrific. Photo: Shellharbour City Council.

Mini Explorers – Plants

When: Friday 17 November, 10 am to 1 pm
Where: Shellharbour Civic Centre – City Library, 76 Cygnet Avenue, Shellharbour City Centre
Cost: Free, book online.

The last event in the Mini Explorers 2023 series invites you to lead your budding botanists down the garden path to Shellharbour Museum, where they’ll dig up some dirt and learn all about plants.

Please note, parents and carers are not required to book for themselves – only book for the child or children attending. Participants will be loaned a Mini Explorers kit including hats, vests and exploring materials including tweezers, magnifying glass, binoculars, bug catchers and much more. Children may need to wear sunscreen as a portion of this program may be held outdoors.

This program is best suited to children aged 3-5.


Country artist James Johnston with guitar

James Johnston’s first-ever solo concert pre-sold out in 56 minutes – and now he’s back. Photo: Glenn Campbell.

James Johnston: Raised Like That Tour

When: Saturday 18 November, 6 pm
Where: WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong NSW
Cost: $189, book online.

James Johnston’s album Raised Like That made history as Australia’s largest debut Country album ever, featuring 20 extraordinary tracks. Now the chart-topper is taking it to the people of Wollongong. On the tour James is bringing along great mates and music collaborators Zac & George as his Tour Support Act and Bella Mackenzie (as seen on The Voice) as the Tour Opening Act.

Johnston said Wollongong held a special place in his heart. “Since I first released music, I’ve wanted to bring my show to the Wollongong region. A lot of my family are from there, so I’m incredibly excited to bring a little bit of country music onto the big stage at the WIN Entertainment Centre. The show is going to be something special,” he said.


i98FM Illawarra Convoy banner

As always, you’re invited to pick your spot along the 80 km of convoy and join in the fun for this always highly-anticipated major fundraising event. Image: i98FM Illawarra Convoy Facebook.

2023 i98FM Illawarra Convoy

When: Sunday 19 November, 8:15 am to 3:30 pm
Where: Convoy will commence at Appin South 32, followed by the Free Family Fun Day at Shellharbour Airport, Airport Road, Albion Park Rail
Cost: Free entry.

Commencing at Appin South 32, this year’s i98 Illawarra Convoy route follows down Mount Ousley, turning left onto Masters Road, then right onto Five Islands Road past Bluescope, then through Warrawong, Windang, Warilla, then right onto New Lake Entrance Road near McDonald’s Warilla, then along to the Oak Flats interchange where they will turn right onto the Princes Highway.

The convoy itself ends with a Free Family Fun Day at Shellharbour Airport, where there will be rides, markets and food stalls, touchdown helicopters joy flights, cars for convoy displays, Kye’s FMX Jam Motocross demonstrations, Eljay’s Freestyle Junkyard show and more.

Singer/songwriter Ricki-Lee will take the stage with back-up dancers and will also be joined by Aussie rockers Thirsty Merc to provide the main stage sounds. They will be supported by Altered States, The Vandastruts, Kate Young Angie Childs & Friends, Polly Hazelton and The Goat featuring Tim Stevens.


Illustration of toad from The Wind in the Willows

This stage adaptation of the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows will delight audiences of all ages. Image: The Drama Studio.

When: Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 November, 7:30 pm
Where: Bruce Gordon Theatre, IPAC, 32 Burelli Street, Wollongong
Cost: Adult $40, under 13s $22, students $22, concession (pensioners/seniors) $22.

Adapted for the stage by Fiona Gabb-Finley with music by Evan Kerr, this beloved children’s classic book comes to life on stage at IPAC for just three shows. Wind in the Willows follows the story of the eccentric and wealthy Mr Toad who, discontent with the enchanting world of the riverbank, sets off on an adventure that leads to the open road, to the perilous Wild Woods and finally, to battle!


Banner for memoir writing workshop featuring sepia image of woman

This workshop is a great starting point for anyone embarking on the task of writing a memoir. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

Memoir Writing Workshop – Corrimal Library

When: Thursday 16 November, 10 am to 1 pm
Where: Corrimal Library, 15 Short Street, Corrimal
Cost: Free, book online.

For anyone looking to share their knowledge or experience through the written word, this practical memoir writing workshop is an excellent starting point. Learn from published memoir writers and experienced workshop presenters Christine Sykes (Gough and Me: My Journey from Cabramatta to China and Beyond) and Gwen Wilson (I Belong to No One). They’ll share insights on how to resource, plan, write and seek publication of your memoir.

Tea and coffee will be available throughout the session.

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