Celebrating 25 years of ChillOut Festival, four days of queer country pride

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Celebrating 25 years of ChillOut Festival, four days of queer country pride

Words by Benjamin Lamb

ChillOut Festival is a celebration of the strong LGBTIQA+ community in the country and it’s taking place in the regional gay capital of the world, Daylesford, Victoria.

Since small beginnings back in 1997, ChillOut has grown to become Australia’s leading queer festival.

2022 marks a whopping 25-year anniversary of ChillOut Festival, with next year’s incarnation set to bring more music, more dancing, and of course, lots of fun. New ChillOut festival director, Em Ireland, is referring to it as a “Silver Jubilee”.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Although the LGBTIQA+ community has strong pockets across Australia, support and groups are often focused in the main cities, an element Em hopes to bring to country through ChillOut. Community groups and tight knit collectives are banding together with Em and the Chillout team to make sure the show is a hit.

“Often some things can feel a bit Melbourne-centric, so for me in the country, it’s been about trying to include all areas,” she adds. “Also coming from that Push / Freeza background, I want the youth in regional areas to have something to do, something to be proud of, and hope they’d want to come back and do it again.”

“The whole community is coming together for a massive festival for everyone of all ages to have fun with.”

The ChillOut festival is a great way to spend some time as a family and after a few years without much live music and partying, it’s set to be a great few days to get out of the house. There are a lot of things for young people: “The kids that come are excited about the face painting, the glitter art tent, and the wand making,” Em continues.

“It’s the city visiting the country, it’s very laid back, it’s all very friendly, there’s lots of things to do, lots of dress ups.”

That’s something important to note about the Chillout festival, there’s something for all types of people. The bill transcends a type; there’s music, food, arts, dancing, lights, and lots more. Check out their full line up and program events here.

The festival also marks one of Australia’s first in a few years featuring international performers like Ladyhawke.

There’s a number of other features on the bill that are worth noting, attendees will get music from powerhouse vocalist Kyle Auldist, Sheldon Riley, and “a really big production called Daddy, it’s an amazing new part of the festival.”

“When I started booking this festival, I was even looking interstate, but then things started to clear up.

“We have a few special guest surprise performers coming including Sheldon Riley, he needs to be seen, he needs to be heard, and I’m really excited about putting him in our main stage.”

Em’s music CV reads as a history book of festivals from years past – she’s worked with festivals like Big Day Out, Byron Blues Festival and Meredith Music festival in some degree, immersing herself in the festivities, learning a lot, and subsequently bringing a fresh and well-versed point of view to ChillOut.

Through working with several big players in the live music scene, Em notes the importance of youth involvement, many often running to day-to-day operations through volunteering. ChillOut recently putting a callout for volunteers and people to be involved, you can apply for it over on their website here.

The idea of volunteering and youth-oriented work is an area Em will bring to ChillOut, as well as the involvement of community groups in other areas of the festivities, to make sure youth can feel accepted, and be “whoever they want to be.”

“An important thing for me is reaching out to youth organisations and regional pride groups, inviting everybody. That’s always been a big thing for me, to create some kind of unity” she says.

You can book in tickets to their vast array of shows here, and Em highlights the importance of getting your tickets early, as Daylesford’s accommodation and tourism spots will quickly fill up.

“Get your tickets booked in, and accommodation sorted quickly, because it does sell out, it’s a big festival for us in a country town.”

The country town is Daylesford, referred to by ChillOut as the ‘regional gay capital of the world.’

There’s no doubt that Daylesford is also one of Australia’s most ornate and picturesque areas, Em noting that many people from these beautiful tourist spots are involved with the festival in some regards.

“We’ve got all types of people involved; we’ve got an amazing crossover of different things,” Em continued.

“The community itself makes it diverse, being a tourist place, there’s lots of things for people to do, especially in nature, it’s really beautiful up here. I think that’s a really exciting part of the festival.”

“Whether you’ve got dogs or kids, the walks around here are stunning. People just come back year after year, there’s a lot of joy and connectedness.”

Bask in the joy and connectedness of ChillOut festival in Daylesford from the March 10 – March 14 2022. Check out more info here.