On Saturday, October 7th, as the spring sun dips below the horizon casting a warm glow over Seaworks in Williamstown, the queer community will come together for The Pier Festival; an event that seamlessly blends electrifying beats, burlesque performances, market stalls, and food trucks into one big LGBTQIA+ friendly party.
The Pier Festival, now in its third year, is the brainchild of April Hollywood, a visionary inspired by her experience at the iconic Dinah Shore music festival in Palm Springs. This international gathering for queer women left an indelible mark which saw Hollywood imagine a similar haven for the LGBTQIA+ community right here in Melbourne.
However, Hollywood didn’t merely import an existing concept. Instead, she weaved the essence of Melbourne into the festival’s fabric.
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“I was in LA in 2016, and I attended the Dinah Shore music festival, which is said to be the biggest gathering of queer women in the world,” she explains. “This had been on my bucket list since the TV show The Real L Word put it on such a pedestal. I just felt so free being in a space specifically designed for queer women. I came back home to Melbourne on a high and I wanted to create something like that here.
“Melbourne isn’t really a pool party music festival vibe, so I evolved aspects of the event that I liked and added a Melbourne flare to create The Pier Festival. Thanks to the support and funding from sponsors and partners BONEZ Alternative Queer Party, Mountain Goat Beer, Hobsons Bay City Council and the Vic Gov, we are able to give people more, for an accessible ticket price.”
Selecting artists for The Pier Festival is a carefully curated process. Hollywood (the Festival Director) and her team recognise the diversity that exists within the LGBTQ+ community, and they strive to reflect this in an impressive lineup.
“We are a festival for queer people rather than a specific genre of music festival,” So, our lineup needs to have a variety to appeal to and cater to these different interests. Our communities are so diverse, so I need to constantly evolve the festival to reflect this diversity and to be current.
“We have singer-songwriter Hope D from Brisbane, Vetta Borne with her R&B, soul, and pop sounds, Downgirl from Sydney with their 90s classic grunge, and CINDA with R&B, rap, dance and pop fusion. We also have covers and angelic acoustic sounds with Harlow & Hart. Then, in the BONEZ Bar, we have BONEZ Alternative Queer Party DJs and performances.”
The importance of The Pier Festival cannot be overstated. In an era where community spaces for LGBTQIA+ individuals are scarce, events like these offer a lifeline. They provide a platform for queer artists, promote visibility, and foster connections among the community.
“We promote an engaging, fun, safe, and welcoming space for the queer community, one where they can enjoy music and entertainment with like-minded people.”
Creating a safe space starts with collaboration. Hollywood ensures that all stakeholders, partners, and staff share the festival’s values of inclusivity and acceptance. The festival itself includes zones designed for various preferences, including a quieter space for those who seek a more relaxed atmosphere.
Hollywood’s advice to other event organisers interested in LGBTQIA+-focused festivals is simple – consider diversity, talk to the community, and collaborate.
“It all starts with who we work with, who we partner with, the brands we choose to align with, all the stakeholders involved, the staff, and the volunteers. There’s no judgement – come as you are, and as long as you aren’t a jerk, you’re welcome here.
“You need to recognise the diversity of the audience, consult with the community, consult with other queer event producers, and don’t compete. Lastly, create the event or festival for the right reasons, and the right people will come.”
As for the future of The Pier Festival, Hollywood envisions expansion. Plans for collaborations with other queer event producers from across Australia are on the horizon, promising a rich tapestry of queer culture.
“In the grand plan of The Pier Festival, we aim to evolve into an East Coast tour. Once we have the structure right for Melbourne, we will tour to Sydney and Brisbane, hopefully with a bigger lineup every year.”
In the heart of Melbourne, The Pier Festival is a celebration of diversity, a platform for LGBTQIA+ visibility, and a reminder that in this safe space, you can come as you are.
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This article was made in partnership with The Pier Festival.