There’s a massive free new music festival starting in St Kilda this weekend. So where did it come from?

Southside Live Festival curator Sullivan Patten on creating a diverse and inclusive winter music festival experience.

“It’s a new environment putting on a festival at this time in St Kilda,” says St Kilda Festival Lead, Sullivan Patten, of Southside Live – the superb new winter music festival in St Kilda. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to trial – having a winter event in St Kilda. We have massive successes with the St Kilda Festival in the summer, but we also wanted to remind people that St Kilda is a hub for live music and creative ventures, and that it’s an attractive place to come and visit 12 months of the year. ”

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The free and all-ages music festival was funded by On The Road Again, an initiative developed by Creative Victoria to further assist the rebuilding of the live music industry in Victoria, which was so heavily impacted by the pandemic. “This funding stream gave us the ability to program some really great artists and bring people down to St Kilda to show that it’s a really great place to come down even in the colder months,” says Patten, “so it’s super exciting to be able to bring this to fruition. ”

“I try to program with the community in mind as always and try to give audiences a little bit of everything, and hopefully they’ll be able to experience acts they know and love and also discover new ones as well,” says Patten. “It has a real focus on Victorian artists. That’s our key focus point for this festival – continuing to showcase the incredible local talent we have. I try to always program with a First Nations first mindset – showcasing a lot of incredible Indigenous artists we have in our community and showcasing their talents. ”

Southside Live will deliver its most soul-stirring performance with Woonungarah Chinnup (Whales and Winter), which is directed by Amos Roach. The award-winning musician, dancer, director and proud Djab Wurrung / Gunditjmara and Ngarrindjeri man – son of Archie Roach – has captivated audiences with his narratives of healing and was last year selected as the inaugural First Nations Residence at Australian Arts Orchestra and Melbourne International Jazz Festival. As a Yidaki (didgeridoo) extraordinaire, Roach directs an incredible performance of First Nations culture with special guests the Yarrabah Dancers and the Murrundaya Yepengna Orchestra to tell stories about Songlines and whale migration along the Coast from Yarrabah to Banurong Country.

A beautiful stage will be set up on the south beach lawn looking out to the bay where audiences can delight in deliciously warming food, mulled wine, winter market stalls and displays of light and neon. Presented by the City of Port Phillip, Southside Live will feature an incredible and diverse line-up, including First Nations performers Woonungarah Chinnup and Mitch Tambo; rock icons Adalita and The Black Sorrows; alternative and indie acts Pinch Points, Maple Glider, and Tamara & the Dreams; rap / hip-hop artists Briggs, Dallas Woods and Freeds; a diverse range of soul, RnB and pop artists Emma Donovan and The Putbacks, Akosia, Bumpy, Jhm, Hiatus Kaiyote, Kaiit, Isaiah Firebrace, Kira Puru, and Pania; classical groups Divisi and Inventi Ensemble; Jazz / dance ensemble House of Horns; and the family-friendly acts Bluey Live Interactive Experience and Teeny Tiny Stevies.

“The most exciting thing is being able to showcase artists whose voices I believe deserve to be heard,” says Patten, “that may not have had the opportunity before or have had to fight harder than other artists to be able to be seen – to give them a platform, a step and then to see them succeed and build upon their own talents. I try to make my programming flow in a way that is obviously very complimentary but also not very genre specific. Seeing artists with different genres and different sounds being inspired by each other is really amazing to see. ”

Patten’s creative career began as the singer and drummer of indie-rock band I Heart Hiroshima before relocating to Berlin, working as an event producer and promoter while working on their solo projects, and then returning to Australia and working as curator and programming consultant for numerous festivals, including Dark Mofo, Next Wave and Electronic Music Conference, while also DJing and recently playing drums in Alice Skye’s band.

“I think going into the queer spaces and punk spaces in Berlin when I was making music there and then eventually doing parties and events there definitely inspired the things that I saw were missing when I moved back to Brisbane and then Melbourne,” says Patten. “It’s a really rich scene of people from lots of different countries that live in Germany and that really impressed upon me about the importance of incorporating different ideas and identities into spaces, so it definitely has informed my programming mindset.

“There were a lot of things that informed me from a queer perspective being in that band, when I was younger and identified as a woman, and then obviously transitioning myself and my own gender through these years, so having ideas and understandings and real life experience about how you get perceived as a woman to how you get perceived as a ‘man’ and how differently people perceive you has definitely informed that transference of privilege and I’ve experienced that first-hand. I really try and actively promote gender-diverse communities and gender-diverse folks in music to transfer that kind of power that seems to be the norm and I think that’s happening, and now I’m trying to shift that focus more to promoting First Nations folks, which I think is a very important thing to consider at the very start of programming. ”

Passionate about creating inclusive, creative and forward-thinking events, Sullivan’s ultimate mission and vision is to have a festival that is accessible and representative of all the communities that make up the wider City of Port Phillip and Victoria. “I try to program without othering and tokenism,” says Patten. “I think it’s really important to get to a place where all line-ups are diverse. I want any person from any community to be able to come and see themselves reflected on the stage. I like to work on catering to more audiences from an accessibility point of view and working to make it more representative of the wider community. That makes it an exciting and accessible space for anyone to want to come and visit to see the amazing work that our artists are creating from all the different communities. ”

“Festivals like Ability Fest are incredibly inspiring to me as a programmer,” says Patten. “Programming with accessibility in mind is incredibly important. I’m excited to see it become more of a norm – making it a place that can be attended by people of all abilities. I’d like to really invest time, effort and money into making our festivals much more accessible. ”

Southside Live runs from June 24 until July 3 at the South Beach Reserve in St Kilda. For more information and stage times, head here.

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