An eclectic mix of film, wine, and handbag hurling are some of the highlights of the first ever gay and lesbian festival to be held in Newcastle next month. The Rainbow Festival will be held from 17 to 19 October, and is shaping up to be a popular event for locals and visitors alike.

Kevin Markwell from Rainbow Visions Hunter, organisers of the Festival, says there has been strong interest in the lead-up to the event. Visitors from Sydney and other parts of the state will join the Hunter locals, with numerous events planned for the three-day festival.

The Festival will be launched with Short And Curlies, an evening of short queer films sourced from Queer Screen in Sydney. The five films will be shown in Newcastle for the first time, while a number of other surprises are planned for the night. Tickets are $15.

A highlight for visitors to Newcastle will be the Wandering The Wineries With Gertrude Glossip (pictured) tour on Saturday. Glossip is famous for her gay and lesbian history tours of Adelaide and Melbourne, and she also enlightened Sydneysiders about the queer goings-on of the animals at Taronga Zoo during the 2002 Gay Games. The all-day tour through the Hunter Valley wineries will be a glamorous affair, Rainbow Visions co-convenor Jennifer Thurgate says.

Imagine a luxury coach load of lesbians, gays, queers and their friends travelling around Pokolbin and chaperoned by none other than Dr Gertrude Glossip, wine connoisseur and glamour historian all the way from Adelaide, she says. The Cessnock district will never be the same again.

Tickets for the tour are $35, or $25 for concessions, not including lunch.

Following the relaxing and possibly intoxicating tour of the Hunter Valley wineries, the place to be on Saturday night will be the Croatian Club at Wickham -“ the venue for ACON’s Eclipse dance party. The party mix of current dance hits plus a few flashbacks will have a fairly broad appeal, Markwell says. This event is part of a series of community dance events organised by ACON. Doors open at 8pm, and tickets are a steal at $10 or $5 concession.

Picnic In The Park III -“ a day of totally camp, family fun -“ is back bigger than ever for the Sunday recovery. A jumping castle, tug-of-war contests, a tennis tournament, and a handbag hurling competition have been organised. There will also be stalls and entertainment throughout the day, and Gertrude Glossip will be back to lead a walking tour based on the gay and lesbian history of Newcastle. The event is family-friendly, so bring the tennis racquet, picnic basket and a handbag or two for what promises to be an afternoon of good clean fun.

The success of previous Picnics In The Park was the motivation for this year’s three-day festival, Markwell says.

We’ve found that the picnic has become a really important event for the area, and hopefully the festival will do the same, he says. We are hoping that this will become an annual event.

The Rainbow Festival is a project of Rainbow Visions, a social and     support group for the GLBTQ community in the Hunter. Further information about the Festival is available from the Rainbow Visions website, www.rainbowvisions.org.au. A Supa Sava ticket, which includes entry to all of the events, is available for $50. For tickets and enquiries, call ACON on (02) 4927 6808.

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