Before moving to Berlin a few years ago, I sat down with my friend Wilma who works in tourism to discuss the idea of bringing a digital arts festival to rural Newfoundland. I loved her ideas and we chatted for some time about how we could work together.
And then I promptly moved to Berlin.
I’d like to think I’ve gotten a little more dependable in my old age.
Fast forward to 2019, and the Unscripted Twillingate Digital Arts Festival is now in its fourth year (soon to be its fifth!). Wilma had been trying to get me out to the festival for years, but something always came up. So imagine my glee when I realized I could actually attend in 2019.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Unscripted Twillingate Digital Arts Festival.
The Details About Unscripted Twillingate Digital Arts Festival
Unscripted is a festival that (clearly) pays homage to the digital arts, whether that means creating with a smartphone, an iPad, or high-end gear. It’s all very hands-on and you’re invited to attend any of the workshops, but you can also just be a spectator and enjoy what’s on (there’s lots of entertainment, like music).
Unscripted Twillingate takes place every September in Twillingate, in Central Newfoundland. September is an amazing time to visit, as peak tourism season is winding down but the days are consistently sunny and clear.
It can get pretty nippy, though. Pack layers (even light gloves) if you’re not used to the North Atlantic chill.
Over the course of a few days, various workshops and artistic events take place all over town. There’s music, educational classes, culinary celebrations, interactive workshops, and more.
Who is the Unscripted Digital Arts Festival for?
Everyone! It doesn’t matter if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body. There’s a workshop for everyone.
Some of the workshops are rooted in more practical lessons, like how to be awesome at social media. Others are more creativity focussed, which is what I came to do.
The creative element is actually my favourite thing about this festival. I had initially signed up for the social media class and then questioned why I hadn’t opted for something out of my comfort zone. I really expected to be participating in your standard photography courses or other online career-focused things, but Unscripted is more about self-expression and art.
There were all ages from all walks of life from all backgrounds at this festival, and it was delightful. No pretention whatsoever.
What Kind of Workshops Are There?
At last year’s event, there was:
- The Art of Intuitive Photography
- Taking Action Somewhere, Taking Action Anywhere (a critical thinking workshop about artificial intelligence and design)
- Social Media Strategies For Small Businesses
- Creative Light Painting
- Embracing Harsh Conditions in Nature Photography (lol highly appropriate for Newfoundland)
- A Musical Stroll
- Fire, Food, and Photography
- And more!
I only participated in a handful of workshops, as I had to leave a day early for a wedding. My favourite was the Intuitive Photography class, hosted by award-winning photographer Mindy Veissid from New York.
I’ve taken a handful of photography classes in the past, but they were all very travel-focussed. Mindy’s class was all about trusting your instinct and shooting from your heart. In other words, not taking photographs with Instagram in mind but snapping photos of something that really speaks to you.
The class started with Mindy instructing us to make ourselves present—to slow down and be intentional when finding our subject and getting close to it.
A lesson I clearly need, because after rooting around in my backpack for a pen for ten minutes, I realized there was a workshop pen right in front of me.
We were told not to get caught up in the technical world of photography, and then Mindy instructed us to get outside and experience the world. This was the best part. We did two different exercises, and twice I found myself by the water after being magnetically drawn to it.
I meandered down around a dock and found sea glass, animal bones, and discarded shotgun shells. Things I would never have noticed if I weren’t being present.
I guess I had never thought of the digital world as being a place to flex my artistic muscles. I realize that’s silly since I’ve worked in the digital sphere for a decade. But it was the most engaging experience I’ve ever had at a festival.
The same goes for my artificial intelligence discussion. A handful of us sat around talking about A.I. and technology and everything in between. It was a great way to connect with new people and garner some mind-blowing information about our world’s dependence on technology.
Other Events During Unscripted Twillingate Digital Arts Festival
If you’re not interested in exploring your artistic side, there’s still plenty of other things to do:
- Attend a Kitchen Party with the Split Peas – This group of “older” women can host one hell of an entertaining kitchen party! They’ve been playing together for 25 years and they’re about as Newfoundland as it gets, riffing off one another and spinning stories and playing all the Newfoundland classic hits.
- From the Bog to the Bay Feast – The festival hosts a big feast every year, and you get a LOT for the price tag. This year’s guest chef was Roary MacPherson, who prepared a three-course meal drawing on inspiration from around the province. I also enjoyed the complimentary Bog Water Cocktail (“Like a Newfoundland sangria,” I was told).
- See a Mike Sixonate show – Every night, Mike Sixonate plays a show at the Captain’s Pub. He’s got a knack for storytelling (and performing, obviously). One of my friends introduced me to him and I ended up with one of his CDs. Definitely pop down for this show, even after the feast. He plays here all summer long and never fails to draw a crowd.
- The Amazing Root Cellar Race – This is an annual event as well, where teams split up and are given clues to find the first root cellar (Twillingate has 232 of them). Then you’re off on a race through a predetermined course from root cellar to root cellar–as you’ve probably guessed, just like the Amazing Race. The winner gets a Golden Turnip Award!
Things to do in Twillingate
Things have changed a LOT here since I last visited in 2013. It’s like a whole new world in Twillingate. There are some new restaurants, a craft brewery, and new artist studios. There’s a renewed, youthful atmosphere to the town and I’m here for it.
I’ll write a whole post about Twillingate later, but while you’re in town for the festival, here are a few must-dos:
- Hang out at the Split Rock Brewing Co. – I popped into Split Rock a few times during my visit for craft beer in their taproom. I even ran into an old friend and her husband, both of whom I haven’t seen in YEARS (and met their adorable son). It was so random and bizarre. Anyway, there’s often live music here, and you can order some pub grub as well.
- Spiller’s Cove/Codjack’s Cove Trail – It’s not a guide without me throwing in a trail or two! This trail has seven kilometers of coastline to explore, where you’ll see sea stacks, beaches, and maybe even some wildlife. It’s a moderate/difficult trail.
- See the view at the Long Point Lighthouse – Make the trek out to this lighthouse on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Atlantic, and watch for ships on the horizon. There are trails meandering around the lighthouse, but it’s a little too late in the season for whales or icebergs. The views are worth it anyway.
- Grab a coffee at the Crow’s Nest Cafe – I love this little spot on the way to the lighthouse. Delicious coffee and lots of baked goods. They have a small kiosk in town as well!
- Shop at the Artisan Market or the Blue Barrel Gallery Cafe – The artistic spirit is strong in Twillingate (as it is in many rural outports), so check out some of the local handicrafts and artwork.
- Earth & Sky Gallery and Healing Centre – You can channel your inner yogi at this place. See what’s on during your visit; if you’re a spiritual person you’ll love it.
Where to Stay
Hodge Premises – This was my first time staying at the Hodge Premises right on the water, and it won’t be my last. I woke up to the sun streaming through my window and the sound of water lapping at the beach!
The hotel is well designed and cozy, and I did manage to find a few good hours to curl up with a giant fleece Kate Spade blanket and read for a while. (I loved that blanket so much, I bought one for Christmas.)
My bed had six pillows. SIX PILLOWS. I made a pillow fort.
There’s a cafe in the bottom part of the Premises. I didn’t get to try the food (just grabbed a coffee for the road), but they had some local crafts on sale too.
Anchor Inn Hotel and Suites – More budget-friendly than Hodge’s Premises, I’ve stayed here lots of times and the rooms are all comfortable (and the staff is excellent). The suites are well equipped with full kitchens and living areas.
I suggest booking as far in advance as you can. It won’t be peak season in September, but it’s still busy!
If you have any other questions about the festival, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. And if you happen to stumble upon this festival by accident, by all means, participate! You’ll never forget it.