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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Walk this way: Newcastle Afoot’s tackling tourism one step at a time

Becky Kiil is passionate about Newcastle.

After moving to the former steel city almost four years ago, the self-confessed “geography and architecture nerd” has dreams of sharing her passion with anyone who’ll listen.

Using her knowledge of urban design and interest in art and culture, Becky has launched Newcastle Afoot, encouraging visitors to find some of the elements she believes make Newy a “go to” destination.

Newcastle Afoot offers walking tours and local guided experiences through the city.

As tour guide Becky offers food and drink, history and street art walks, small group walks, school excursions, corporate events and private parties.

She was raised in a steel town herself, her youth spent in the South Australian town of Whyalla, before moving to Adelaide and Melbourne.

After extensive travel both within Australia and overseas, Becky settled in Newcastle in 2017.

She instantly fell in love with the city she believes is a tourism drawcard.

“Throughout my life, wherever I’ve lived, one of the most exciting things for me has been showing my family and friends the best things to find in the city I live in, and helping them get to know it in a richer way, by guiding them through it,” Becky said.

“I’m quite a geography nerd, I’m an architecture nerd, and it’s my passion to ensure people get the most out of places and showing things off so wherever I’ve been I’ve always done that.

“There was no business like that here in Newcastle, so this business really is a dream come true.”

With a background in social justice, Becky has also studied architecture design, landscape architecture and psychology.

She is a photographer as well.

“I’m interested in architecture and city scapes and how people shape cities – and cities shape people,” she said.

“This place is exceptionally beautiful, historically interesting, culturally diverse, lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle, and people just skip over it.

“But, I’m watching people discover it now and there’s definitely an increased interest.”

Newcastle Afoot has attracted its fair share of media attention in the past 12 months too, featuring on Seven’s Better Homes and Gardens and Sunrise TV programs.

“All I knew about Newcastle before I moved here was steel and Silverchair,” she said.

“What drew me to it was its interest in urban renewal.

“It’s an interesting changing landscape. It’s very rapidly diversifying.

“There’s always been this rich cultural landscape here and now it is experiencing cultural tourism growth

“It’s a modern vibrant place.”

Becky’s favourite Newcastle location is one she feels stirs the most emotion from visitors.

“Historically it’s been walking through Parnell Place in Newcastle East and watching people as we walk towards the water,” she explained.

“It (the tour) opens up to the Ocean Baths and Newcastle Beach; the cliffs and the city and seeing people‘s faces, and even for myself, it resets me every time.”

Becky is also the brainchild behind Newcastle’s first Big Picture Fest which launched in October 2020.

The three-day event saw 14 art installations welcomed across the city centre and the western wall of the Civic Theatre.

“Public art helps to inspire the community,” Becky said.

“It’s just one of the creative elements we can celebrate within this beautiful urban space.”

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