‘Maximum joy without burnout’: Celebrate queer country pride with ChillOut’s biggest program yet

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‘Maximum joy without burnout’: Celebrate queer country pride with ChillOut’s biggest program yet

Words by Luke Carlino

Australia’s largest queer country pride festival is back with a massive 2023 program this March.

The ChillOut Festival is back in Daylesford – the self-proclaimed gay capital of Victoria – for its 25th iteration and the line-up is more stacked than ever before.

Daylesford’s celebrated gathering of the regional LGBTQIA+ community offers a star-studded line-up featuring acts like Kate Miller-Heidke, Drag Race Down Under’s Art Simone, ABC’s Nate Byrne, and Rainbow History TikTok star Rudy Jean Rigg, along with plenty of events, talks, and general good times.

Check out our monthly calendar of Melbourne events and festivals here.

This year will once again be run by Em Ireland, a new-ish ChillOut festival director with over 25 years of music and events industry experience. Em’s impressive resume includes work on Big Day Out, Meredith Music Festival, Golden Plains and more, and she runs her own company, E.A.Z.E Multi-Arts, creating forums and infrastructure for various art forms across the country.

ChillOut has expanded since last year, with Em explaining that the Daylesford community has become more involved with new events and spaces, making the festival even more inclusive and accessible than it already was.

“We are working hard to deliver maximum joy without burnout,” Em says. “We do this by staggering our events to a climatic Sunday with Kate Miller-Heidke joining us for Carnivale! It feels like getting the band back together a second time around, everyone is a little wiser and less overwhelmed about what’s coming to our stunning country town in March.”

ChillOut holds the honoured title of Australia’s largest regional queer festival, which in some ways creates a level of responsibility for Em and her team, who have the opportunity to influence the public’s understanding of the artistic talent in the queer community.

For Em, a big part of this responsibility involves creating a safe space for everyone to be themselves, be seen and heard and able to enjoy everything.

“It has definitely been influenced by my experience as a queer youth growing up in a seaside town, also being raised in a rainbow family and inspired by the regional LGBTQIA+ community’s resilience and strength,” Em says.

“There’s so very much less in place in regional towns for LGBTQIA+, and I love to watch things changing over the years, but there is still so much to be done in some areas.”

Em explains that her role places her as a facilitator of a giant family meeting place, listing to country and voices of the community at all ages, engaging with thousands of people across Victoria and statewide: “I am also the educator who is constantly learning and sharing  knowledge across everything we do, from pride footy to accessibility, to trans-awareness and understanding pronouns in our everchanging diverse and beautiful rainbow community.”

The 2023 ChillOut line-up is full of a wonderfully diverse range of acts, their biggest yet, and Em mentions that the list of performers was essentially curated by the committee, locals, artists, business owners, and more.

“Everyone had amazing ideas on how to better and tweak the festival,” mentions Em when discussing this giant group effort, “I looked at making sure we include First Nations artists and gender diverse acts across all events, lots of time researching and following artists online as well.”

ChillOut Festival aside, Em has plenty of artistic endeavours that will fill her 2023 calendar, along with finding new and exciting acts for ChillOut’s 2024 program. “I’ll be running around to every single LGBTQIA+ event across the state and beyond to see and hear as many acts and meet as many people as I can!”

Em is also off to the World Pride conference and working on Women to the Front (a women’s collaborative event), Spring Bliss at Hanging Rock, and plenty more. “I have already been asking some artists about 2024 – its a non-stop process of bringing connection to all, and I absolutely love it.”

ChillOut Festival runs from the 9th – 13th of March 2023 in Daylesford, Victoria, with a huge range of shows, events and more. Tickets are now on sale, including various glamping options for the weekend. Accommodation can also be booked in Hepburn Shire for easy festival access.

Check out the full program here.