No Such Thing as Normal: The Wacky and Wonderful Events Happening in NSW This Year

Dystopian art shows, fabulous regional festivals dedicated to drag and new takes on classic sports — and they're all happening in NSW.
Alec Jones and Sarah Ward
Published on June 16, 2023

No Such Thing as Normal: The Wacky and Wonderful Events Happening in NSW This Year

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Dystopian art shows, fabulous regional festivals dedicated to drag and new takes on classic sports — and they're all happening in NSW.

At this point in human history, we've left the world 'normal' far behind us. We live in an age of out-there ideas across all mediums, from entertainment to food and beyond. So why limit yourself to routine plans, basic weekenders and tickets to the same old festivals when you could shake up your calendar with something a little more unique?

There's no shortage of offbeat events taking place in New South Wales in 2023, so we've partnered with Destination NSW to showcase some of the more left-of-centre and memorable attractions across this vast state. From existential dread to fabulous festivals and some good old-fashioned silly fun, we invite you to consider the following...

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    Vivid Sydney is, of course, no stranger to lights. Every year the Harbour City is filled with luminous installations as part of the largest festival in the country. This year, for the first time, that glow has spread underground into Wynyard Station’s disused railway tunnels.

    Meet Dark Spectrum, an immersive installation that is world-premiering at Vivid Sydney for the 2023 program. It’s taking place in tunnels that have never been opened to the public — let alone been transformed into a subterranean light show. If you like lasers, secret passageways, bright colours and thumping electronic dance music, they’re all on offer from Friday, May 26–Sunday, July 16.

    A collaboration between Vivid Sydney, Sony Music, Mandylights and Culture Creative, this underground spectacle features eight rooms, all heroing a different hue and theme, with the entire setup inspired by raves and their dance floors. Combining a dynamic soundtrack with cutting-edge laser, robotics, and lighting tech, Dark Spectrum is a must-see for Vivid Sydney 2023.

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  • 4
    Adrián Villar Rojas: The End of Imagination

    If you appreciate a touch of sci-fi and existential thinking, add this fascinating art exhibition to your list. Described as a “high-sensory experience” the latest exhibition from Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas explores impossible questions of the future, brought to life as twisted sculptures in an exclusive show that is open until Sunday, July 16.

    The inaugural installation in Art Gallery NSW’s former wartime oil bunker known as The Tank, The End of Imagination is powered by a purpose-made code dubbed the Time Engine. The Time Machine generated hypothetical scenarios across a timeline of millions of years and created virtual structures that exist in these hypothetical worlds. Rojas and his team then ‘downloaded’ the virtual sculptures and painstakingly recreated them in mixed media before transporting them across the world from his home country.

    Displayed in the eerie darkness of the Tank, the sculptures will challenge you to consider social, economic and anthropological questions from futures that could come millions of years from now — or never.

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  • 3

    Strenuous physical activities and cold beer go together like, well, cold beer and a lot of stuff. That’s the driving inspiration for a shindig called Gears and Beers Festival, the brainchild of the Rotary Club of Wollundry in Wagga Wagga. The annual celebration takes the best parts of cycling and beer, combining them in a joint extravaganza that runs on Saturday, September 30 and Sunday, October 1.

    First, the gears. The weekend kicks off on Saturday with the 40-kilometre Wiradjuri Welcome course, designed to warm you up for the main events the following day. Sunday racers can register for the scenic ten-kilometre Strawberry Ride, the 30-kilometre road course, the gravel-heavy Sic60 60-kilometre course, the lengthy 115-kilometre course and the flagship Dirty130 130-kilometre course. All the Sunday rides are timed to have you arrive at the festival grounds in time for lunch.

    If you’ve registered in a ride, entry is free. But non-riders can also purchase tickets to the festival separately. The festival is held in the Victory Memorial Gardens of Wagga Wagga, where you’ll have a chance to recover from the ride with cold (and local) craft beers, ciders and wines — or hot local coffee and food alongside live music and sunshine with your fellow riders.

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  • 2
    Broken Heel Festival 2023

    If you’ve ever watched the classic Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, you need a book a trip out to Broken Hill for the Broken Heel Festival, an annual celebration of the film’s release in the town where it was partly set. It’s three days of nothing but discos and divas in the capital of the western NSW desert.

    The festival runs from Thursday, September 7 to Monday, September 11, during which the regional town will be overtaken with comedy, cabaret, live music and social events dedicated to the film. Cultural personalities from around Australia will be participating, including DJs, showgirls, and drag kings and queens. If you know your performers, starring acts include German native Hans, Ru Paul’s Drag Race Down Under alumni Kita Mean and dancing queen Rita Menu.

    From the lower-key Friday welcome party to the headline Saturday main drag parade (which the entire town usually turns out for), some events are limited to Broken Hill, but others will spread out to the neighbouring village of Silverton. There’ll be dedicated food and drink menus, plus drag markets where you can shop until you (death) drop.

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  • 1
    Trundle ABBA Festival 2023

    It’s Friday Saturday night, and the lights are low, you’re looking out for a place to go. If you’re in the mood for a dance, and if you get the chance, you can unleash your inner dancing queen at the return of Trundle ABBA Festival on Saturday, October 14. It is Australia’s original ABBA-centric festival, celebrating the beloved Swedish quartet and their 70s pop hits.

    The town of Trundle is proud to host this annual event, a day of family-friendly entertainment headlined by legendary ABBA tribute act Björn Again. Dress up in your glitziest 70s threads and prepare to rock out to all your favourite ABBA hits.

    Festival details are yet to be finalised but tickets go on sale Monday, July 3, with a sale until the end of the month. For the complete experience, you can book a tour package including transport, tickets and accommodation. Campsites (powered and glamping) will be available to book as well as buses from Parkes and Forbes or a train from Orange. Mamma Mia!

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For more information on other events happening in NSW throughout 2023, visit the Destination NSW website.

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