Fair Share Festival practises what it preaches

Creative solution: Jasmine Stuart ,15, works on the door of the tiny house project with builder Ian Dawes.

Creative solution: Jasmine Stuart ,15, works on the door of the tiny house project with builder Ian Dawes.

WHEN you’re expecting 1000 people to attend a two-day event that includes food and drink, it might seem sensible to have more than two standard household rubbish bins.

But organisers of the Fair Share Festival at Hamilton Primary School  on November 12 and 13 are aiming to lead by example, illustrating how with a little effort and planning, people and businesses can drastically reduce their waste and live more sustainably.

“It’s going to be a challenge. At most events of this size you would expect dozens of full rubbish bins at the end of the day, but the Fair Share Festival is all about minimising waste and addressing over-consumption,” festival organiser Cathy Stuart says.

“We will be providing china crockery and cups from the Samaritans and there will be dish washing stations so people can wash and dry what they use.  Food scraps will be composted on site for the school’s veggie garden and worm farm, or taken offsite to be composted  at Feedback Organic Recovery’s urban farm.”

The biennial festival, which was first held in 2010, is designed to share ideas and skills through forums and workshops, and provide inspiration and help strengthen community ties.

It is run by Transition Newcastle, the group responsible for Upcycle Newcastle which provides workshops and classes in turning waste into new creations, and the Transition Streets program, which promotes environmental and social sustainability in local neighbourhoods.

“Unlike many festivals, it’s not all about encouraging people to come with heaps of cash and take home bags of new things they’ve bought, but to come with an open mind and leave with lots of ideas, maybe some new skills, and new connections within the community,” Stuart says.

“There will be many upcycling workshops on offer - textiles, mosaics, making planters from wooden pallets, jewellery from vintage ceramics, guitars made from biscuit tins, and re-upholstery.

“Or maybe you don’t want to make something for yourself but would like to contribute to the Tiny House furniture that will be made on site. Perhaps thinking about your own life is something you’d prefer. There will be discussions and workshops on ‘Finding time for your own fair and sustainable life’, ‘Food Waste’ and ‘Parenting in a consumer world’.”

But organisers don’t want festival-goers to come, or leave, empty-handed and are encouraging visitors to bring items for a giant book and clothing swap.

“Part of the whole ethos of the Fair Share Festival is encouraging people to share and swap items that they no longer want or use. For the sake of practicality at the festival this year, we have decided to keep it simple and stick to clothing and books,” Stuart says.

Visitors are asked to bring no more than 10 swap items - any combination of books and clothing. They will be given tokens to use at the festival swap shop. Any unwanted items at the end of the festival will be given to the Samaritans.

“For the swap, we want people to bring clean, good quality clothing, the kind that is good enough to give to a friend. But if you have clothes that have interesting features but might not be suitable for the clothing swap, bring them along and learn how to upcycle them,” Stuart says.

The festival kicks off with a screening of the documentary The True Cost about the real price of fast, cheap fashion and its impact on the environment and the people who make it. Textile upcycling advocate, Jane Milburn, author of the Slow Clothing Manifesto, will respond to questions after the film at Newcastle Museum on Thursday,  November 10.

Festival entry is by donation. Bookings required for workshops (minimal charge).

To register for festival workshops, volunteer or learn more contact the Fair Share Festival at  upcycling@transitionnewcastle.org.au.


  • Watch The True Cost documentary - Learn about about the cost to the environment, workers and communities from our obsession with fast, disposable fashion.
  • Contribute to the Tiny House Project - Help fit out a tiny house being built in a box trailer by two teenage girls, Larni, 16 and Jasmine, 15,  under the guidance of mentors builder Ian Dawes and welder Cayde Tasker.
  • Talk about food  - Contribute to an open panel discussion about food and how we deal with excess and waste food while people in our community go hungry. Featuring  speakers from OzHarvest, CatholicCare, The Fresh Ingredient and a local dumpster diver.
  • Make a cigar box guitar -  Musician and luthier, Garry Petrisic, leads a demonstration workshop on how to make a guitar from a guitar box, biscuit tin and other assorted ‘junk’. Other workshops include upcycling clothes, furniture, mosaics, vintage jewellery and learning composting.
  • Fix those pants - Bring along clothes that need modest repairs and get them fixed while learning how to do it yourself at the Sewing Lounge
  • Learn new skills - Kids can join a circus workshop with Circus Avalon, plant seedlings to take home and have a go on a sewing machine. Adults can learn mosaics, composting, making jewellery and upcycling clothes.  
  • Swap some clothes or books -  Bring up to 10 books or items of clothes for a giant swap meet and reinvigorate your wardrobe or bookshelf.
  • Be inspired - Join a forum on parenting in a consumer world, finding time to live a more sustainable life, eating without consuming the planet and urban farming.
  • Make some noise - Join the community music jam for a fun, joyous session of music making.

transitionnewcastle.org.au or facebook.com/FairShareFestival