Locked Up

Underpass mural by Trevor Dickinson

Late last year, I was lucky enough to have my application accepted as part of the 2012 Artist in Residence program at The Lock-Up Cultural Centre. The Lock-Up is an old gaol that has been turned into a museum and gallery space, and which also houses the Hunter Writers Centre. As it turns out, they had a place available for me right at the beginning of this year, and so I find myself living and writing here in Newcastle for the next couple of weeks or so. I'm pretty stoked.

My plan while I'm here is to spend time on the beach and in the water, and to think about what belonging to a sub-culture like surfing means when you are out-of-place. As a child of the sub-topical, wetsuit-free, busy, warm water, point breaks of northern NSW - where longboards and women are the norm - surfing and hanging out in Newcastle will prove to be, I think, a very different surfing world. While I like to imagine that sharing a love of surfing can help people connect, I'm interested to see how that plays out when two very different surfing worlds meet. Already today I met a young woman who began to fill me in on the strong local borderlines delineating who belongs where, hinting at an invisible but enforced set of rules, which she reckons I will personally discover with some haste. But, I suppose, we will see.

Even more significant, being out-of-place here in Newcastle is more personal than a lack of connections to local or surfing cultures and identities. The last couple of years have been pretty tumultuous and painful for me, ending in the death of my beloved mother in December lat year, so it is interesting to now be in a space and place and time that is so far from home, work and family, and from the numbness of my still-raw grief. I'm not sure what that is going to be like yet, I'm not sure what that is going to feel like, but I'm leaping into this project with an open heart. Mostly I'm excited at having time to write, to explore a new city and space, and to meet some new people. Newcastle is a pretty cool and beautiful town, so even though I'm only here for quite a short time, hopefully I can find my feet a little.

As a part of this short time, I plan on using my blog as a site to write, to report and hopefully to create a set of memories for myself - a place to store and archive the weeks I spend here. I have always found this blog as a useful way to 'think out loud', and help me remain accountable to the people, places and communities that I write about. Hopefully, by sharing what I do, see, find and feel, there will be something of value (or at the very least, interest) for someone other than myself.

Wish me luck...


  1. Hey Rebecca,
    I've been following your Blog, thanks for sharing your Stoke :)

    I live in Newcastle (Lake Macquarie) to be precise. Please don't stress it's not that bad. The town beaches might get a bit heavy when the crowds are up. But if you venture a bit further South towards Redhead, Blacksmiths and Catherine Hill Bay.

    These spots have a strong longboarding scene and can be quite welcoming so long as visitors show respect. I've never seen the crew not welcome a girl into the line up :)

    The great thing about being a surfer is that there is always a connection with other surfers.

    Keep an open mind and happy heart and you'll be fine. Just take in the positives and you'll always have a great day :)

    See you in the water.


  2. Hey Dave,

    I was actually just thinking that despite what people have been telling me, everyone I have met so far has been super welcoming and excited to show me around.

    Thanks for your tips - I think I'll try and get out and about today...

    Hope I meet you out in the water!

  3. No problems, it was good this morning :)

    I won't be hard to spot, usually the only Chinese guy in the water.

  4. big congrats on the residency Bec! good luck with yr writings and processes.... :)

  5. Anonymous7:18 AM

    Hello Rebecca,

    I am interested to follow your blog. I am doing the Australian in London thing and I miss the ocean! Nice to surf vicariously though you. Thankfully, I have found a wonderful home sharing a house with Amy Nicholls who referred me to your blog! Small world. Best of luck with your move and living in Newcastle.


  6. Hi Rebecca,

    Your thoughtful writing is always a pleasure to read and I trust that this time away will give you some of that well needed space.
    Sending lots of warm wishes from a cold place so far away from the eastern shores of Australia.
    xo joni


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