All posts by Leigh-Anne Wrighter

The 2018 Ultimate Guide To Wollongong

Wollongong is known for being a bustling coastal city just an hour’s drive south of Sydney. So what does “the Gong” have to offer? Read on to hear our recommendations for 20 things to do in Wollongong (and nearby!).

1. Botanic Garden

It’s not a visit to Wollongong without a trip to the Botanic Garden.  From the rose garden, the duck pond and the sculptures, this is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle and easily spend a few hours leisurely strolling. Bring a picnic and set up under a nice shady tree for a well-spent afternoon. The wee ones will love feeding the ducks and learning about the local plants and wildlife.

Other key activities include:

  • The All-Abilities Children’s Playground, which has a maze suitable for children aged 2-12
  • The Kawasaki Bridge, a Japanese ornamental bridge which renowned for being a great photo opportunity
  • A variety of garden types, including roses, herbs, woodlands, an azalea bank, succulents and a variety of rainforests.

2. Grand Pacific Drive

If you are the type who loves to take in a good drive with scenic views and unique places to stop, this day trip idea is for you. This 140km drive runs between the Royal National Park, just south of Sydney all the way to Bomaderry in the Shoalhaven Region. Hit the road and enjoy endless views of the sea as you pass through rainforests and charming seaside towns. Make sure to look out for the Sea Cliff Bridge, which is a highlight along the drive. We suggest going for a walk across the bridge to stretch your legs and take in the picturesque views and winding stretch of road.

sea-cliff-bridge-aerial
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

In addition, The Scarborough Hotel is a great lunch spot nearby, that offers sweeping ocean views from a top-notch beer garden.

Tip: Great spot to be during the whale migration season (late April-August)

3. Nan Tien Temple

Did you know Wollongong is home to the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere? Known for its peace and tranquillity, Nian Tien Temple is the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon. Stroll the grounds and gardens to take in the incredible architecture and serenity, take part in health and wellbeing retreats or excursions offered, dig into a wholesome and unique vegetarian culinary experience, check out frequent Buddhist festivals and exhibitions held at the temple and so much more.

4. Check Out the View from Our Magnificent Lookouts

Wollongong is known for being a coastal city where the sea and mountains meet. Which is why we have so many incredible lookout spots. If you are looking for the best views, check out Bald Hill Lookout, a world-renowned hang gliding spot; Southern Gateway Centre Lookout on the escarpment; Sublime Point Lookout for a bush walk and 180-degree views of the coast; Hill 60 for a scenic look south at Port Kembla Beach and some World War 2 history; and Mt Keira Lookout for stunning views over Wollongong. Bring a picnic and spend lunch overlooking the beautiful coastline. If you’re lucky (and visiting at the right time of year) you may even see a whale breaching out to sea!

5. Science Space

What better way to spend a Saturday with the kids than at Science Space, New South Wales’ only dedicated science experience. With interactive exhibits, hands-on activities and experiments and school holiday shows, your kids will be busy discovering and learning about the world of science for hours.

For those who love their astronomy, Science Space is home to the DIGISTAR 6, Australia’s #1 most digitally advanced Planetarium.

6. Visit 17 Surf Beaches and 9 Rock Pools

Believe it or not, the Wollongong area is home to 17 stunning surf beaches and 9 amazing rock pools for swimming. Austinmer Beach + Little Austinmer Beach are two of the more popular beach spots in the region, with large rock pools and decent waves, it is approximately 25 minutes north of the Wollongong City Centre.

The Towradgi Beach Park is another great spot for the family, just north of the city centre. With its main feature – a saltwater rock pool, as well as a patrolled beach and plenty of areas for the little ones to play, it is an easy place to spend a Sunday afternoon in the summer. You’ll also find a magnificent walking track that leads to central Wollongong and further on if you feel like stretching the legs.

Port Kembla Beach is known for being one of the cleanest, safest and best-maintained beaches in the Illawarra, thanks to its pristine soft sand and crystal-clear water. Port Kembla is also home to a large Olympic pool which provides fantastic views.

port-kembla-pool
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

7. Australian Surf Tours

For those who are ready to take on the beloved Aussie past time of surfing, spend a day with Australia Surf Tours. This specialised surf school will teach you all you need to know to leave you feeling like a pro. They offer both private and group lessons for the adults, special programs for the kids, and surf camps for all the backpackers who pass through the area. They can be found at three different spots in Wollongong – North Wollongong Beach, The Farm Beach and Bulli Beach. Check out their website for more information.

8. Endless Cycling Pathways

If you want an alternative to driving along the coast, grab your bike (or rent one!) and enjoy over 60 kilometres of on and off-road cycleway with views of the beach and escarpment. Grab the family and bike the 15km track from Wollongong to Thirroul – this stretch is flat, making it an easy and enjoyable ride for riders of all ages. Beautiful beach views, refreshing sea breezes, cafes and parks for rest stops – cycling is the perfect activity for a family day out in Wollongong.

Bike Riding
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

9. Skydiving

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, why not cross skydiving off your bucket list at Skydive Sydney-Wollongong. As the only spot to beach skydive near Sydney, you’ll freefall at speeds of up to 220km p/h for up to 60 seconds, while taking in some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. You’ll see the beaches of Wollongong below and the beautiful New South Wales coast stretching as far north and south as the eye can see. If you are looking for a bit of adrenaline and the best views around, skydiving in Wollongong is for you.

10. Stuart Park

Stuart Park is a spacious, grassed park right next to the North Wollongong Beach. It provides ample covered eating areas, plenty of cafes nearby. Laze away near the inlet from the beach while you listen to the ocean waves and watch skydivers land, as this park is also home to the landing pad for Skydive Sydney-Wollongong. The kids will be happy for hours with a bike and scooter track, a big playground with massive slides, accessible swings and of course, a flying fox. Stuart Park is a great place to relax and is close to central Wollongong.

11. The Australian MotorLife Museum

This automotive museum is a true hidden treasure for all automobile enthusiasts. Check out the vast collection of vintage cars, vans, and many other types of vehicles. They are even home to a very rare collection of some of Australia’s earliest manufactured motor vehicles. Walking through the museum, it is evident that a great deal of hard work has gone into the restoration and presentation of the vehicles. Well worth a visit to learn more about Australia’s motoring history.

12. Early Start Discovery Space

Another great spot to take the kids on the school holidays is the Early Start Discovery Space, an interactive children’s education centre. In fact, it is Australia’s only dedicated children’s museum! With so much to see and explore, kids will spend hours imagining, dressing up, experimenting, and playing with all the sensory learning opportunities that this attraction has to offer. Highlights include the large Lego area, caves to explore, a mini marketplace with mini trolleys, the HMAS discovery, and outdoor space to dig up dinosaur bones. Don’t worry parents, there is also a great café to keep you busy as well.

13. Illawarra Performing Arts Centre

The Illawarra Performing Arts Centre is easily the area’s most loved place for the arts, located in the middle of the city’s arts precinct. It plays host to a wide variety of shows, from renowned theatre to music and dance, and even comedy. It also hosts a number of community-focused events. The size of the venue makes for a very personal, intimate experience, making you feel like part of the show, which is always a favourite for the audience. There is always something for everyone, from the kids to the adults, so check out their website here to see what is on throughout the year.

14. Hang Gliding at Bald Hill

If jumping out of a plane isn’t for you, perhaps hang gliding at the Sydney Hang Gliding Centre is. Take in the views as you glide through the air at Bald Hill, a world-renowned hang gliding location. You’ll be strapped in with an instructor from the team who together holds over 100 years of gliding experience. This experience of a lifetime is a great way to make your trip to Wollongong a memorable one.

hang gliding
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

15. WIN Sports and Entertainments Centre

If you’re looking for a place to catch a sporting match or concert, the WIN Sports and Entertainment Centres is where you want to be. This multi-purpose facility has staged some of the world’s top artists, including Elton John, Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga. You can also catch major national sporting events, both indoor and outdoor, including NRL, basketball, soccer, and local rugby league.

The local home teams include:

  • St George Illawarra Dragons (National Rugby League)
  • Illawarra Hawks (National Basketball League)
  • Wollongong Wolves (National Premier League – NSW Soccer)

Upcoming events and ticketing information can be found on the WIN Sports and Entertainment Centres website.

16. Wollongong Art Gallery

A must-visit while exploring Wollongong is the local Wollongong Art Gallery. The gallery features the work of both local and Australia wide icons in the art world, from photography and painting to music, and so much more. They regularly host new exhibits and displays so there is always something new to check out at the Wollongong Art Gallery. Located in the heart of the arts precinct, it is easy to access and even easier to spend many hours enjoying all the incredible Australian art that the gallery has to offer.

17. Visit the Famous South Coast Markets

For all the foodies and art lovers out there, the Wollongong area has plenty of markets just for you. You’ll find the Coledale Markets, Puckeys Night Market, Foragers Market, Friday Forage Market and the Eat St Market. Browse the stalls, grab a bite and sit back and enjoy the music. Stock up on fresh local produce, handmade jewellery and organic products. The food markets are bustling with food stalls hosted by the region’s food producers who are passionate about the quality of the food they produce. From truffle infused burgers to the paella, with plenty of vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options, there is a huge range of food for every taste bud. These markets run on different days across the week so be sure to check what is on when you’re in town.

18. Illawarra Light Rail Museum

For a truly unique experience, head over to Albion Park to see the historical Illawarra Light Rail Museum, just a short drive south from Wollongong. Have a look at old steam locomotives, rolling stock and learn about the history of the railway in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. The kids will love learning about the history of local trains as they go for a ride on the steam train or the miniature railway. An incredible experience that will feel like a blast from a past!

19. Aquilla Fishing Charters

Head out on the water for a day with Aquilla Fishing Charters, as they take you on an incredible adventure through some of the best fishing areas off the New South Wales coast. No fishing license is required and they provide all gear and tackle on board. With over 40 years of history fishing in the area, the team will take you out from Wollongong Harbour, show you the best spots around, and be sure to provide you with a unique and unforgettable experience. Learn more about their guided fishing excursions the Aquilla Fishing Charters website.

20. Indulge in Wollongong’s Best Cuisine

Last but not least, we thought would shine the spotlight on all the incredible places to eat in Wollongong. From Friday night spots to those slower paced Sunday breakfasts, the city has something for everyone. Lee and Me is a local favourite for brunch and coffee, located on Lower Crown Street. For your next date night, check out Bull & Bear – Wollongong’s best Spanish tapas bar. This unique spot has an edgy vibe and serves up the best Spanish classics suited to the Australian palette, such as croquetas, churros and sangria to top it off. If you’re feeling adventurous, just go for a stroll down Crown Street in the centre of the city and see what you come across – we can assure you that you can’t go wrong.

Destination Wollongong Grand Pacific Drive
Credit: Dee Kramer Photography

We hope this list has provided you with some great ideas to get out and explore all that Wollongong and the surrounding areas have to offer. From the endless beaches and coastline to the incredible museums and arts centres, you’ll never run out of unique things to do in Wollongong.

For the latest news and updates on what is happening in the city of Wollongong, be sure to sign up to the What’s On In Wollongong newsletter.

The Cascades Walk and Jump Rock | Macquarie Pass National Park

Explore a natural adventure playground at Macquarie Pass National Park located just 30 minutes from Wollongong.

Providing an abundant rainforest you’ll see amazing plant life, birds and native wildlife together with breathtaking views.

Conveniently close to both Robertson and the coastal town of Kiama, this is easily a fantastic one day road trip or a chance to spend a few days away with friends and family.

The Cascades Walk

Location: Base of Macquarie Pass
Distance: 2km return
Time: Allow approx. 45 – 90mins
Pace: Leisurely/family friendly

With a mostly flat terrain we enjoyed the Cascades Walk at a leisurely pace with a 5 and 8 year old in tow.

If coming from Albion Park, you will find a carpark on the right hand side at the base of Macquarie Pass. Simply cross the grass area in front of the carpark where you will find the beginning of the path.

Please note there are steps along the path but nothing that caused complaint. The kids happily ran ahead more excited about what they could discover.

With the sunshine magically peeking through the rainforest canopy, we stopped many times along the way to enjoy the scenery, climb rocks, test our balance skills across a fallen log  and spot native animals including lizards and birds.

Your prize at the end of the track is the beautiful waterfall and natural pool, a photographers dream.  A perfect spot to just stop and take it all in.

Just a word of warning – be careful of slippery surfaces at the waterfall. I may or may not admit to taking a slip waist dip into the refreshing water. That’s a story for another day!

Recommendations

  • The track can include water and mud – don’t wear your best shoes.
  • Don’t forget your water, hat, sunscreen and snacks.
  • Take the insect repellent and some salt (leeches present).
  • Pack a picnic and take advantage of the Cascades picnic area.
  • Take your rubbish with you.

More Info

More info regarding the Cascades Walking Track can be found at nationalparks.com.au

Pictures-of-The-Cascades-Macquarie-Pass-National-Park-NSW

Jump Rock

Location: Track commences base of Macquarie Pass.
Distance: Approx. 3.5km return
Time: This would depend on your level of experience and who you are travelling with. We had young children and it took us 3 hours return. Experienced or fit walkers may take approx. 1.5 hours.

Located on the left hand side (if coming from Albion Park) at the base of Macquarie Pass, this was our unexpected adventure!

There are no signs but the path commences from the small carpark and is fairly obvious.

As you progress along the initially flat walkway, the path begins to fork giving you the option of travelling closer to the water or ascending higher. We took the higher road where we navigated some tricky situations including steep slopes and muddy, slipper surfaces. At times we felt like mountain goats but  we were loving the challenge!

With a 5 and 8 year old in tow we really had to work as a team to ensure safety and we recommend you do some research prior if you plan on taking young ones (be smarter than we were!).

You will discover stunning scenery along this walk with views of water pools, plant life, birds, astounding rock formations plus massive tree roots along the way.

There are also plenty of places to stop along the way to have a rest or cool off in the creek water.

So what did we discover when we reached Jump Rock? Stunning natural pools of water cascading down over massive boulders creating a stunning landscape. It’s absolutely beautiful.

You will find beautiful pools of water which are brilliant for dipping your toes or taking a swim (it’s a bit chilly in that fresh water!) so pack some swimmers and a towel.

There are ropes tied in various places to help you climb the large rocks and people were climbing the rocks and jumping from various platforms 3-10 meters back into the water. We did not do this and cannot comment on the safety of doing so (do your research before participating!).

This walk took us 3 hours return but keep in mind we had young children in tow. I would recommend you do your research before heading off on this walk to determine if it is right for you and your company.

Recommendations

  • Do your research – check out Bush Walk the Gong for more information.
  • Wear old shoes, there’s plenty of water and mud.
  • Take plenty of water, sunscreen, hat and snacks.
  • Be prepared for leeches – take some salt.
  • Safety first, let someone at home know when you are going and when you’ll return.
  • Take your rubbish home.
  • If planning to do this with young children, please ensure they are up for the challenge prior to departure. Our 5 and 8 year old, although champions along the way, were absolutely exhausted after this walk.
  • We have heard that Jump Rock can be very popular in Summer months so plan accordingly.

More Info

More detailed information can be found at Bush Walk the Gong and Pioneer Walks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DJUKI MALA | Spiegeltent Wollongong

In their inaugural Wollongong performance, award-winning indigenous dance sensations DJUKI MALA literally blew the top off the Spiegeltent!

Surpassing all expectations, these instantly likeable boys hailing from Elcho Island in North East Arnhem Land were simply charisma on legs… and boy could they dance.

With their cheeky, high-energy personalities, they each have a powerful and undeniable presence on the stage. You simply can’t peel your eyes from the stage.

Welcoming you into their world with open arms, DJUKI MALA thoughtfully express their traditions and values through the art of storytelling and dance with an enormous pinch of humour (ladies wear waterproof mascara!).

It’s a fast-paced journey from traditional Yolngu dance through to modern day hits and there is more than one surprise moment!

Expect the unexpected and you will leave wanting more. Watch out for those electric hips!

Would we see it again? Hell yes!

You can literally feel the happiness and joy in their performance and it’s infectious.

DJUKI MALA is hilarious, uplifting and full of soul!

Performance Times

Sat 14 Apr at 2:30pm
Sun 15 Apr at 6:30pm

Where

The Spiegeltent Wollongong
The Arts Precinct
Burelli St, Wollongong

Tickets

$50.00

Tickets On Sale Now

Your Guide to Easter in Wollongong 2018

Have yourself a ‘hopping‘ good time this Easter with our guide to all the fun things happening in and around Wollongong.

Find out where to take the kids for Easter egg hunts, Easter crafts and activities, and where to find the Easter Bunny! Plus we have you covered with markets, fun things for the adults plus what’s on Easter Sunday.

Top Picks for Kids

Easter Family Fun Day
Where: Wollongong Botanic Garden
When: Saturday, 31 March 2018
Time: 10am – 1pm
Cost: Free

We are so excited to see the return of the Easter Family Fun Day in 2018. This is a free community event proudly presented by the Rotary Club of Wollongong and Wollongong Botanic Garden.

What’s On
  • 10am – 11am Easter Egg Hunt*
  • 10.30am – 12.30pm Symbio Mobile Wildlife Zoo
  • 11.30am Discovery Centre theatre show
  • Jazz tunes from local students of the Conservatorium of Music
  • Children’s fun entertainment & activities brought to you by the Garden’s Ranger party experts & Wollongong Botanic Garden’s Discovery Centre.
  • A BBQ by Rotary, refreshments and coffee will also be available for purchase on the day.*Note: During this time age groups will run in order from 10am, starting with 0-5 years, 6-8 years and 9-12 years. Children will hunt for a token in exchange for an easter egg.

TBH Annual Easter Show
Where: Towradgi Beach Hotel (carpark)
When: Saturday, 31 March 2018
Time: 10am – 5pm
Entry: Free Entry

There is no need to travel up to Sydney when we have our very own amazingly fun Easter Show right here in Wollongong!

What’s On
  • Carnival rides*
  • Show bags
  • Reptile show
  • Farmyard animals
  • Magicians
  • Free face-painting
  • Sideshow games + more!

*Wristbands are $25 per person per session. session times are 10am to 2pm and 1pm to 5pm.

Free Easter Activities for the Kids

Kids Easter Basket Decorating at Figtree Grove
When: Saturday, 31 March 2018
Time: 10.30am – 1.30pm.
More info.

Easter Central  at Wollongong Central
When: 26 to 31 March 2018
Activities include Easter colouring in, Easter Sand Sculpture Building, Sand Sculpture Workshops, Butterfly House Feeding Experience, Easter craft activities, chocolate fountain experience and a visit from the Easter Bunny (31 March 11am – 2pm).
More info.

Easter Fun Day at Dapto Mall
When: Saturday, 31 March 2018
Time: 11am – 2pm
Annual Easter Egg Hunt through-out the centre, create an Easter tote bag to collect yummy Easter eggs, face painting and the Easter Bunny will be roaming the centre. More info.

Easter Bunny Visits Warilla Grove Shopping Centre
Join in the Easter Fun at Warilla Grove Shopping Centre with a visit from the Easter Bunny on Thursday 29th March and Saturday 31st March between 10:30am to 2:30pm each day.

Easter Bunny’s Breakfast + Live Show at Warrawong Plaza
When: Saturday, 31 March 2018
Time: 8.30am – 9.30am
Join The Cadbury Easter Bunny for a special Easter Breakfast in the Warrawong Plaza Food Court. Breakfast which will include fruitless hot cross buns, a piece of fruit and a bottle of apple juice or water. Following the Breakfast there will be a live Cadbury Easter Bunny show at Centre Court commencing at 10am.Bookings are essential. $5 deposit per child, refundable upon attendance at the event. Tickets are on sale now at the Customer Service Desk.

Easter Fun at Stockland Shellharbour
When: Saturday 31 March 2018
Time: 10am – 3pm
Meet the roaming Easter Bunny and have fun with Easter craft activities.

What’s On Easter Sunday

Annual Burgh Easter Egg Hunt 
Where: Burgh Healthy Hub, 338 Cemetery Rd, Helensburgh
Time: from 8am
Cost: FREE
Whilst your searching for your eggs keep your eyes peeled for an appearance from a very cheeky rascally rabbit PLUS enjoy Hot Cross Buns, Coffee, BBQ Breakfast and of course CHOCOLATE!!! Everyone is invited so come have some fun at this FREE event.

Easter Sunday at Windjammers
Where: 2-14 Cliff Rd, Wollongong
Time: 12.30-2.30pm
Easter Sunday lunch at Windjammers includes:
– Deluxe BBQ & seafood buffet
– EGG-stravagant chocolate themed dessert buffet
– 3 hour beverage package
– Live entertainment
– Kid’s face painting
Bookings Essential – more info.

Easter Egg Hunt + Meet the Easter Bunny
Where: Headlands Austinmer Beach Hotel
When: Sat, 31 March + Sun 1 April
Time: 11am

Giant Easter Egg Hunt
Where: Jamberoo Action Park
When: Sunday, 1 April
Time: 9.30am (don’t be late!)
Hunt for 1000’s of yummy chocolate Easter Eggs at the GIANT Easter Egg Hunt at Jamberoo Action Park. It is FREE to participate, must be either a paying guest or a Season Pass Holder. Easter Egg hunt starts at 9.30am SHARP. ONLY for children aged between 4-12 years. More info.

Easter Sunday Eggstravaganza
Where: Red Dog on the Green, Figtree
Time: from 12noon
Easter Egg Hunt, have some fun on the Slip n Slide, Run n Splash Water Slide, fun with Dragonfly Parties plus kids crafts, games & face painting activities throughout the day.

Easter Egg Hunt & Live Music
Where: Mountain Ridge Wines Cellar Doors & Restaurant, Berry
Easter Egg hunt: 9:30am (regular breakfast menu will be available) and the second hunt of the day will be on at 12:30pm (set menu and kids menu available only). Kate Young will also be playing from 12pm till 3pm. Booking are essential: (02) 4448 5825. Visit Mountain Ridge Wines for more information.

Easter Family Race Day
Where: Shoalhaven City Turf Club
Time: 11am – 5.30pm
Visit Shoalhaven City Turf Club

Dragons v Knights
Where: WIN Stadium
When: 1 April 2018
Time: 4.00pm

Easter Markets

Kiama Farmers’ Market – Easter Market & Kids Spud Hunt
When: Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Where: Surf Beach, Kiama
Time: 3pm – 6pm

Eat Street Market by Foragers
When: Thursday, 29 March 2018
Where: Crown St Mall
Time: 5 – 9pm

Good Friday Market, Kiama Makers & Growers
When: Friday, 30 March 2018
Where: Black Beach, Kiama
Time: 9am – 2pm

Warrawong Markets
When: Saturday, 31 March 2018
Where: Northcliff Dr, Warrwong
Time: 7am – 1pm

The Farm’s Market
When: Sunday, 1 April 2018
Where: Killalea State Park, Shellharbour
Time: 10am – 3pm

Dapto Showground Markets
When: Sunday, 1 April 2018
Where: Dapto Showgrounds
Time: 7am – 1pm

Foragers Market
When: Every Sunday
Where: Bulli Showgrounds
Time: 9am – 2pm

Something for the Adults

Original Sin INXS Show
Where: Towradgi Beach Hotel & Waves
When: Thursday 29th March 2018
Time: 8.30pm
Cost: Free

Marty Bright + Support
Where: Wollongong Comedy
When: Saturday, 31 March 2018
Time: 8pm – 11pm
Tickets $15 online | $20 at the door

John Waite
Where: Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul
When: Saturday, 31 March 2018
Time: 8pm
Tickets on sale now

Easter Sunday Session
Where: PEPE’S on the beach, Wollongong
When: Sunday, 1 April 2018
Time: 2pm – midnight
Entry: Free
DJ’s on the Deck from 3pm
Feat. DJ KEYES & DJ Ace
VIP Cabana Bookings & Bottle Service Packages
Dance Floor
Dessert Cocktails

The Villains – CD Launch
Where: Towradgi Beach Hotel
When: Sunday 1st April at 7.30pm
Cost: $13.94


Award-winning Duo The Ironing Maidens Come To Wollongong

Award-winning Australian electric house duo The Ironing Maidens  will hit Wollongong with their unique sound as part of their regional Strike While the Iron is Hot Laundromat Tour on Saturday 27 January at  City Central Laundry Services.

Yes that’s right folks, this performance will take place in a laundromat and will have you second guessing not only the role of the traditional housewife, but you’ll also never look at your iron the same way again!

Following their stand-out performances at Germany’s famous Fusion Festival and Byron Bay’s Falls Festival, expect an ‘iron sharp‘ performance as The Iron Maidens showcase their breakthrough music and unusual sound by adapting real irons and ironing boards into electronic instruments.

Celebrating the release of their new single Electro Housewife using samples from real life 1950s ads encouraging a life of domestic duties for the female population at the time, explore whether the  notion of the ‘female domestic goddess‘ has changed over the decades.

An electronic arts projects that begun 5 years ago, The Ironing Maidens, Patty Preece and Melania Jack are also lifting the lid on female electronic music pioneers that have remained largely under acknowledged.

Encouraging new dynamic expression into the electronic music genre via their own music technology school, Mesh – Music Electronic Sound House, The Ironing Maidens will also be offering public workshops with each performance.

Participants will gain an introduction into the  topics of EMP, basic Ableton Live software skills, electronic instrument creation and the history of women in electronic music.

One half of The Ironing Maidens, Melania Jack, took some time out for a chat about their sound and how they are changing the perception of both female pioneers of electronic music and the role of the traditional domestic worker.

A natural evolution into electronic music

I had originally studied guitar and had been writing songs for sometime when I met Patty who produced an earlier EP of mine (In the birds Belly – Melania Jack). Patty’s production on the tracks included some electronic elements which really gave a new edge to the arrangements. From there we started working on more electronic based tracks in a band called Shiny Shiny with Bec Newman – a really fun, crazy and politically charged band with hilarious stage antics.

It has been a natural evolution but what I really love about it is the fluid nature of working in Ableton Live. We can sketch down idea’s, add our own parts, it’s so easy to collaborate.  We like to use a lot of samples we collect ourselves which is a really engaging part of the process. It allows us to continually create and develop our ideas, and allows us to stay in the playful part of the track construction until it all settles into itself and feels like it is finished.

The Ironing Maidens journey begins

We had both [Patty Preece and Melania Jack]  been studying and working in the Electronic Music Production (EMP) industry for some time before we discovered the work of Daphne Oram – a pioneer in Electronic Music from the 1950’s.

We were surprised at the lack of acknowledgement she received in her time and that she was not included in current EMP history curriculum. We wanted to create a show as a homage to the influence Daphne, and many other females in the industry have had on the development of the industry.

From there we started exploring the parallel topics of the time and what stood out to us was that household technology and the role of the housewife was being heavily marketed towards women. Through this process of research, we felt that not enough has changed for women in our society. Whether they are in the studio, laboratory or kitchen, in our opinion, women’s work and worth is not valued or promoted enough.

The process of adapting the domestic iron to electronic music

The first step is finding an iron that can be pulled apart. This is not easy with modern irons being designed with planned obsolescence and very few spare parts. Then we look at what we can do with them.

One iron – “the ironiser”, has a synth built inside it that I play like any other synth instrument, with pitch and volume control. The ironing boards have sensors to trigger sounds.

Patty has an iron that has been modified with buttons she can press to trigger the samples we use – of 1950’s advertising of household goods. It’s been fun learning how to make our own instruments and really gives you an appreciation for the work of instrument designers – like Daphne.

The ‘irony’ of performing in regional laudromats

The laundromat has been the perfect venue for our show, for the aesthetic, but also because it gives the audience a really unique experience; with the smell of laundry soap, the humming of the dryers and the social nature of the space. I also think using the laundromat as a venue really speaks to the washing and ironing as being work, outside of the home (which seems to be more valued by our society) as opposed to chores.

Female pioneers of electronic music

We hope through the songs and conversations we have after the show with the audience, we can spark people’s interest in the work of these women.

Certainly, in the workshops we’re running during the tour, we’ve found participants are surprised and sometimes blown away when they look at the work, for example the Oramics Machine – an early synthesiser invented by Daphne. Just having her name mentioned and her work discussed I feel changes the way we think about women in the industry.

1950s ads and the role of domestic females – has anything changed?

Listening to the language of the ads makes people laugh, and comment about how it ‘used to be’, but we don’t feel like that much has changed.

One of our strong themes is the gendered allocation of household work, and why it is we are still seeing this extra work being laundry piled onto women.

The 2016 census showed that women are still doing up to 5 to 14 hours of unpaid domestic work, compared to less than 5 hours for the average Australian Man. When we saw those stats, we were even shocked. This needs to shift, and soon; there is nothing about ironing that makes it particularly a woman’s job. We don’t iron with our genitals – that would be dangerous!

Public Workshops

Our workshop had been developed with young people (16-30) in mind, but we are open to anyone who is interested in learning the basics of Ableton Live, electronic music production, song-writing and particularly the history of women in electronic music.

We hope people get a taste for the software and the process as well as an opportunity to experience a gender inclusive EMP education space.

Sometimes people can feel a bit excluded by the language and the male dominated nature of tech spaces – we hope we provide a totally different vibe that is female, trans and gender queer friendly. It means that everyone in the room gets to contribute and feel part of something.

The Ironing Maidens Live Wollongong Performance

The Ironing Maidens will perform live at City Central Laundry Services (82 Kembla St, Wollongong) on Saturday, 27 January 2018 from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.

Wollongong Public Workshop

The public workshop will take place at Anchors Aweigh Art Studio (104 Church St, Wollongong) on Saturday, 27 January 2018 from 10.00am to 1.00pm.

Tickets

Tickets, performance and workshop information available at www.ironingmaidens.com.au