Walking the walk in Newcastle

A local entrepreneur leads Newcastle walking tours that are steeped in the past, grateful for the present and confident about the future.

“We live out of stories”, particularly those among us who are Christians, guided by ‘the greatest story ever told’. Other faiths, families, sporting clubs, workplaces and friendship groups all have stories they treasure.

Exposure to the narrative of one’s place can serve to deepen the communal sense, as well as the senses of identity and security, of those who live here. This is the ambit of Becky Kiil’s work. She is young and well-informed, telling the story of a place with an age-old people past.

In common with many born in the heart of Newcastle, I retain certain images from childhood that compel me to say, ‘This is home’. My first five years are a pastiche of impressions walled around by sun-drenched sandstone near the Centaur Private Hospital where I was born; fumed by rising gas from the basements of the Church Street terraces or the more inviting aromas from Reg McLean’s bakery under Pacific Park; infested with dangers such as the cavernous, glass-splintered alley beneath the Grand Hotel; fascinated by the World Pool, the white concrete tank traps near South Newcastle beach, salted scents and the ever-present sough of the sea… These fragments locate me, so it seems only peripheral to know that Newcastle is Australia’s second oldest city, site of the first coal mines in the southern hemisphere; visited by Mark Twain in 1895… With such facts I am vaguely familiar, but I rarely ‘feel’ them.

I become aware of such life and vitality in Becky’s eyes; in her voice, a bubbling enthusiasm; in her words, authenticity underpinning information. She’s in love with Newcastle!

Originally from Whyalla, Becky brings something deep and genuine into her work: weekday and weekend guided walking tours of Newcastle and Newcastle East.

“Novocastrians,” she believes, “live with unparalleled beaches, history and culture that’s accessible and available – you can’t find that in many places.” The tours she facilitates are not anchored in the past but embrace also Newcastle’s revitalisation. Becky’s passion for architectural planning colours her tours which embrace aspects new and old − “Newcastle’s arts scene, Aboriginal heritage, colonial and industrial life”.

I ask her to name one site she has come to value and she instantly begins to extol the wonders of the ‘Lock-Up’, City Arcade (with the men’s baths underneath); art deco buildings in Wolfe Street, Boatman’s Row, Mencken’s constructions… Then she speaks of Wickham and its importance to Aboriginal people. This is not an afterthought. Through sensitive liaison with the Indigenous community, Becky hopes to be able to add more detail to what is already integral to her narrative.

Becky’s perspective is broad indeed. Her tours are unique, celebrating the city’s vitality with more than a nod to a cherished past. Conversing with her, I’ve begun to feel what she is in the process of creating.

Newcastle Afoot offers stories for living!

Becky Kiil may be contacted for bookings or to learn more. Call Becky Kiil on 0432 851 313 or visit the website.  

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John Murray Image
John Murray

John is a member of the Aurora Editorial Team.

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