Heart of St Kilda Concert is putting food on plates for those in need

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Heart of St Kilda Concert is putting food on plates for those in need

Words by Augustus Welby

The Heart of St Kilda Concert returns to the Palais Theatre in late October.

Now in its 12th year, the concert raises money to support the Sacred Heart Mission, which works with people who are experiencing homelessness, social isolation and extreme disadvantage in the community.

“We don’t say ‘homeless people’, we say ‘a person experiencing homelessness,’” says Sacred Heart representative, Andy Grant. “We say that because this experience of homelessness does not define the person.”

As the Mission’s fundraising manager, Grant is responsible for bringing in over $3m of donated income each year. The Heart of St Kilda Concert plays a huge part in reaching this target.

“Everyone who comes through our doors is welcomed and made to feel part of a community,” says Grant. “We build trust, we build relationships and we do that through our meals program, which is predominantly a dining hall on Grey St.”

The concert raises somewhere around $70,000, all of which goes straight to the dining hall where $4 is spent per meal and up to 400 meals are served every day.

“So when you talk about someone coming into the dining hall and building that trust, it basically costs us $4 to begin a journey or a pathway for one person to eventually exit the homelessness system,” Grant says.

St Kilda locals are able to see first-hand the great work the Mission does, either through volunteering or through events like the Heart of St Kilda.

“We do have a series of fundraising events, but [the concert] is more accessible because of the pricing,” says Grant, “but also more accessible because of the varied talent on show.”

The varied talent lined up for the 2019 event includes Motown worshippers The Teskey Brothers, busking folkies Pierce Brothers and scene stalwarts Joe Camilleri, Rhonda Burchmore and Rob Snarski.

“There’s a degree of pressure, because each year you want it to be better or you want it to be as big or as good,” says MC and event producer, Brian Nankervis. “They’re always great nights. We’ve been pretty lucky over the years and we’ve worked very hard to get fabulous bills.”

The goodwill in the room encourages acts to return for repeat Heart of St Kilda appearances. “Dan Sultan has done a couple for us,” says Nankervis. “We’ve got him again this year, which is really exciting. The first year we had Paul Kelly, Kate Ceberano, Renee Geyer, Tex Perkins and Dan Sultan.

“I know a lot of performers who strangely enjoy doing benefits more than normal gigs. You’re not being paid, but there’s something about the atmosphere at a benefit gig that makes it very special. It’s a beautiful room, the Palais, an incredible theatre to play. So there is a great sense of occasion.”

A selection of comedians will also appear at this year’s event, including Nankervis’s work pal, Libbi Gorr. “She’s a great woman and a great comedian,” he says. “I work with her at the ABC so we see each other in there. The other day I leaned over to her desk and said, ‘Would you be up for [The Heart of St Kilda Concert]?’ So that’ll be great.

“I’m really excited because there’s a comedian I’ve been chasing I reckon every year and I finally got him. It’s Carl Barron. He’s a master, incredible. So that’s exciting.” 

Over the last 12 years, Nankervis has seen the concert grow and take on greater significance for the local community.

“Just in the last few years it feels like people outside of what I would consider to be a normal gig-going demographic [have started coming]. My pilates teacher, for example. The Mission is such a loved part of St Kilda, and the kitchen.

“People realise these days that there’s a lot of people out there that are doing it really tough. This concert is giving people the chance to spend some money and know that the money is going to the meals kitchen at the Sacred Heart Mission.”

The Heart of St Kilda Concert is happening at Palais Theatre on Wednesday October 23. For tickets and more information, head to the concert website.