Part of the fun in finding and participating in niche and local events in your city is you never quite know what to expect!

Whether it’s partying among dinosaur bones and fossils, sketching a crowd of costumed characters or sitting in a small, candlelit warehouse listening to groups of musicians playing a ‘secret’ gig – there’s always something unexpected to be found in your city!

Why should I attend?

You’ll meet heaps of interesting people – and the more people you meet, the more you’ll hear about other interesting niche events happening in your local area. Local underground events are brilliant grassroots spaces for networking with others who share similar interests.

You’ll challenge yourself. As an international student, you’re probably already used to stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself with new experiences. If you’re already feeling like you’ve completely explored your city inside-out, it might be time to dive in a little deeper! Exploring your city through fresh eyes can help prevent homesickness and stress – and offers great sightseeing experiences you don’t need to travel far for!

You’ll further immerse yourself in – and contribute to – your community. Nothing develops community spirit like people coming together. By being active in your community and participating in these events, not only will you make more local friends, but you’ll play an important part in supporting these events – and enriching your greater community.

But where should I look?

That’s the big question! There’s understandably a certain taboo in explicitly naming specific underground events online (some are ‘secret’, or spread by word of mouth only), but a great place to start is at some of the more public events:

Tips for finding niche events

Network online with similar interest groups.  Networking websites/apps like Meet Up and Hobspot are fantastic resources for finding groups in your local area who share similar hobbies and interests. Usually, these groups will know about related events too!

Invite musicians into your home. Gather a party together and invite musicians to play an intimate event right in your backyard or living room! Websites like Parlour and Sofar Sounds can link you with professional artists playing in or touring around your local area, or put you in touch with people hosting music parties in their local backyards.
Check out also – Music in Your City

Attend smaller, local festivals. We’ve already put together a comprehensive guide of some of the best major Australian festivals out there. However, whilst these and the bigger, city-wide events like Vivid are growing increasingly popular, keep an eye out for the smaller, more obscure little festivals existing off-the-beaten-path. The Secret Garden Festival is a great example – a 48-hour fancy-dress forest disco held on a small Aussie family farm!

Smaller local arts festivals like Beams Arts Festival or This is Not Art (Newcastle) transform entire streets or towns into exciting creative spaces, with poetry readings, music, theatre and art installations popping up across town. Check your local council’s website for upcoming local events, or ask friends and students at your university about upcoming local street/suburb festivals in your area.

Keep an eye out for ‘hidden bars’ or secret art spaces in your city. Certain art spaces, pubs and bars are ‘unmarked’ – not obviously accessible from the street, without any advertising or obvious storefront! But inside these unmarked doors often lie hidden pubs frequented by musicians, artists and other savvy locals. Whilst local word-of-mouth is your best bet for finding these hidden gems, check out useful entertainment resource Time Out’s The Best Hidden Bars in Melbourne and Sydney lists. However, remember to always stay safe – if you’re wandering into an unknown area, it’s best to take friends with you – remember, do your research!

Attend a local zine fair – or participate yourself!  The word zine (pronounced ‘zeen’, from ‘magazine’) usually describes underground self-published, small-press publications (booklets, comics, personal or political writing, poetry, etc). Zine fairs are large gatherings where zine-makers make, sell and swap zines with the general public and each other. They’re fantastic places to grow involved with your local arts scene and mix with other local (and interstate) creatives! Zine fairs in Australia include –

Otherworlds Zine Fair (Sydney)
MCA Zine Fair (Sydney)
This is Not Art Zine Fair (Newcastle, NSW)
Zina Warrior Print Fest Zine Fair  (Adelaide)
Zine & Indie Comic Symposium (Queensland)
Festival of the Photocopier (Melbourne)

Check out also: zine space Sticky Institute (Melbourne).

General Tips for finding niche events

Get into conversations – ask around!

Once you’re at an event, put yourself out there, say hello, introduce yourself and talk with people – ask them if these events happen often, and if they know of similar or upcoming events. Show interest in their local scene – do they know a local place where everyone hangs out? Share your curiosity, interest and passion, and people are generally happy to help – and often eager to demonstrate their knowledge and welcome new people into their circle.

Show up!

Become an active part of the scene. Remember, if you show genuine interest and actively participate in community events, people will remember and acknowledge you as a part of their community.

Be a tourist in your city!

Be curious, courteous and creative about looking for these places – and you never know what you might find!