Who Loves: The new kids on the block set to change the Melbourne party scene

When a group of 20 something music enthusiasts get together to throw parties, changing the sound of Melbourne usually isn’t their main aim.

However, Who Loves event organisers Denis, Dajana, Andre and James have finally pursued their dreams of creating their idea of a perfect party, and are doing things differently when it comes to throwing good events.

The idea for Who Loves formed when the foursome met one night at a party and discovered that they had the same intentions to run their own events and change the party scene in Melbourne.

Denis Khassapov, one of the Who Loves founders, has already made a name for himself running parties at Prahran’s unique nightclub and pawn shop, Pawn & Co.

“I always wanted to run my own parties, but the right people with the same ideas never came around,” he said.

“One day I was at my friend Alex’s house party, DJing, and Andre came over to me and he really liked my music, and when he was playing I really liked his music.”

“After that, we randomly bumped into each other at a DJ competition called Your Shot. We just got chatting and somehow got thinking that we should start our own parties. We both mentioned that we wanted to run our own events and that’s how it came about.”

Who Loves currently run one party per month, getting their inspiration from the events they had been to and replicating a similar vibe.

“We got a lot of our ideas from the house parties we went to and all the doofs we used to go to, we just wanted to throw parties with a similar vibe to that,” said James.

“We want to create a different, deep house sound and be recognised for it. No one really plays that kind of music, and we just wanted to play the music we’re into, so we thought let’s try to bring that kind of doof environment to a monthly event.”

In order for the parties to be accessible to everyone, the group decided to run their events during the day from 3pm to midnight.

“Our aim is to throw good parties, attract good people and create good vibes, a place where everyone can just hang out and have a good time,” said Denis.

“We want to attract all different types of people and make it accessible to those who may just want to listen to a few tunes during the day, or for those who want to come to a pre party somewhere before they go out,” said Dajana.

“We end our parties early because we don’t want people to leave when they’re completely drained. We want people to leave at an early time still buzzing from the good vibes and leave thinking, ‘Wow that was incredible’ rather than ‘I’m really tired’ and then forgetting about how good the party was,” said Andre.

While Who Loves currently throw one party a month, the group have high ambitions to grow their name.

“Maybe in the future there will be a Who Loves record label or even a Who Loves music festival,” said Andre.

“Our aim is to create a unique sound that people recognise as Who Loves. We want to create parties that people gravitate towards,” said Denis.

The following photos were taken at Who Loves‘ third event at Less Than Zero on the 5th of August 2017.

The Who Loves crew (from left to right) Denis, James, Dajana and Andre.




 


Keep up to date with Who Loves’ upcoming events on their Facebook page. The next one is happening this Saturday at 3 pm, head here for all the details.

Photographs and words by Deniz Karaman

A Celebration of Diversity at the Cocoa Butter Club

The Cocoa Butter Club’s second event celebrated, entertained and educated the audience about the talent of Queer, Transgender and Intersex People of Colour (QTIPOC) with a night of music, dance, acrobatics and performance art.

Held at the Melba Spiegeltent on the 26th of July, the themes of Aboriginal sovereignty, structural discrimination and racial dynamics were seamlessly stitched into the night.

Originally from London, the Cocoa Butter Club’s website describes it as a “roster of queer performers of colour” with a mission to “moisturise a thirsty club scene [through] representations of the other in everything from neo-burlesque to poetry, live music and voguing”.

Organiser Dani Weber praised the diverse talent presented during the night.

“The strength of the Cocoa Butter Club lies in diversity – the diversity of genres and the multiplicity of talents that people of colour have. Our existence is real. We are loud and talented,” she said.

“Attendees don’t have to be people of colour, but they need to be willing to enter a space where they will be supportive to the mission of the night, to centre Indigenous [people] and people of colour,” Dani said.

Roseanne Chalker performed a series of stunning acrobatics, using only a cloth hung from a hook and her body. Her gravity defying display of strength, artistry and ingenuity transgressed physical boundaries. Photo: Alexis D. Lea

The Melba Spiegeltent had undergone an interesting transformation for the event. Rather than rows of seats, circular tables decorated the space.

The night’s main singers Mama Alto and Kandere were a standout.

Mama Alto circled around like a shimmering diva, stepping onto the stage as if making a mistaken stop from the 1940s.

Mama Alto soared, particularly as she hit the piercing high notes of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

Moreover, she educated the audience about the achievements of people of colour in theatre. She applauded last year’s Tony Awards, which had awarded all four major acting awards to people of colour for the first time in its history.

Kandere was composed of two pacific islanders: Lakyn Tarai and Wahe Kavara. Their set included a mishmash of breathtaking beats, distorted vocals and some heated dance moves.

Caption: Drag king, Justin Teliqure, stole the hearts of the audience. His suave dance moves projected his irresistible charm. Photo: Alexis D. Lea

Next, a performer embodying  Mother Nature made an appearance. Surrounded by a cacophony of nature, she flipped the coin on conceptions of normalcy and encouraged the audience to unpack their thoughts about gender and sexuality.

Her performance reinforced that members who identified as non-binary, transgender or gender diverse had every right to belong.

Throughout the night MC’s, Nayuka Gorrie and Davey Thompson, educated the audience about the controversies and racial discrimination faced by Aboriginals.

The MCs also reminded the audience about the recent deaths of Elijah, Dr Yunipingu and Lynette Daily. A sense of loss resonated through the night.

The Cocoa Butter Club gave a voice to the QTIPOC community on their terms. With the voices of this community often hidden or ignored, the event portrayed their beauty, agency and authority.

The next Cocoa Butter Club event is to be held at a yet to be announced date in October. Stay tuned to get the exact dates.

Written by Devana Senanayake

Church boy turned electronic DJ

On first impression, Ash Mclerie resembles your typical Melbournian DJ. Namely, he’s quirky, nonchalant and hip. However, unlike many other DJ’s, his music career kicked off in a religious context: at church, being the child of a pastor; born and raised in a deeply religious family.

He is an energetic character flittering from one place to the other, his curly brown locks bounce up and down around his head each time he moves. He wears a cheeky grin and curls a strand of hair around his finger as he speaks. “What’s the time?” he asks. “Two thirty”, I reply. “Time to see the dentist!” he yells back. Funny? check. Cool? Check. Charismatic? Check check check. 

He’s already played at festivals like Strawberry Fields and Rabbits Eat Lettuce, and has appeared at famed Melbourne venues such as Brown Alley, Revolver, Billboard, Tramp Bar and Railway Hotel Brunswick. He is fast making a name for himself as one of Melbourne’s up and coming DJ’s, and his passion for music flourished in an unlikely setting. 

Ash discovered his love for music at the tender age of eight years old, mixing music at his local church.

“I was doing sound for the church, I was the guy at the sound desk. That’s when I got into music, but even before that I was fascinated by it. Church helped me to progress to what I do now and I branched off into electronic music.”  

“My dad is a multi-instrumentalist, he’s been doing music since we were kids at church,” he says.

But his religion still plays a role in his life and he believes that his talent for music is God given.

“I feel as though God has given me musical talents.”

Ash says that he wants to use his music to help people, and is pursuing DJ’ing as a full-time career.

“My goal with music is to change people’s lives around the world, to make them feel a certain way: happy.”

“Music has opened me up to a lot of opportunities, it’s helped me get through hard times, and it’s shown me my potential and given me purpose. It’s shown me that anything is possible. I want to pass that on to others,” he says.

Ash making music in his studio. Photo: Deniz Karaman.

Ash’s good friend Ilan Riback describes Ash’s relationship with music as “inseparable from his character”.

“Ash lives and breathes music, it’s what we all know him for. Some people are known for their sense of fashion or love for animals, with Ash, it’s always been music.” 

“A lot of our friendship is built around and based on music. We bond over music and spend most of our time at gigs, it’s actually a really important aspect of our friendship.”

While Ash currently works as an electrician, he eventually wants music to be his full-time career.

“When I’m at work I’m constantly thinking about music, but I’m never thinking about work when I’m doing music.”

As the conversation draws to a close, it is very evident that Ash has a special relationship with music, more so than enjoying a few tunes after work in order to unwind. For Ash, music is a lifestyle and has been the defining feature of his life.

Whether or not he will produce music for a living in the future, it’s safe to say that Ash will be making some noise around the Melbourne music scene, if only to one day become one of its most loved DJ’s.

 Written by Deniz Karaman

The Arts and Activism: a profile of Equal Love’s Anthony Wallace

In 2004, Prime Minister John Howard tabled the Marriage Amendment Act 2004, which banned gay couples from marrying or having their overseas marriage recognised by Australian law.

Fitzroy local Anthony Wallace’s interest in marriage equality peaked when he sat outraged and perplexed with his partner at Prime Minister Howard’s decision in 2004.

Over nine years later, Mr Wallace is the campaign manager of Equal Love, the Victorian arm of a nationwide campaign to achieve marriage equality in Australia.

“I was walking down Smith Street and saw a poster for a same sex marriage rally. I asked if there was anything I could do to help,” says Mr Wallace.

After attending his first marriage equality rally with a CD player in hand, Mr Wallace saw enormous scope for improvement in the staging of Equal Love’s rallies.

Addressing the crowd with a megaphone was simply not going to cut it.

Although at a busy time in his life, between performing as an actor in stage shows and finding his feet in the bar ownership caper, Mr Wallace took on a more prominent role with Equal Love.

As campaign manager, one of his greatest achievements is the staging of a rally in conjunction with the Sydney based Community Action Against Homophobia.

Anthony Wallace (centre) at a Marriage Equality rally. Photo: Anthony Wallace

In 2011, thousands marched from Hyde Park to Darling Harbour to the Labour Party Conference in support of marriage equality.

“It remains the biggest march for marriage equality in Australian history,” Mr Wallace recalls proudly.

“When I joined the campaign, public support for marriage equality was as low as 23 per cent. We can champion this until we are at 99 per cent, but the government has to act.”

Remaining motivated to campaign for marriage equality is easy and it is people like Peter and Bon who inspire him to do so.

Peter de Waal and Peter (Bon) Bonsall-Boone are two men who have loved each other for over 50 years.

Recently featured in a video on the Equal Love website, they have become well known to Mr Wallace and Equal Love.

Bon recently lost his battle with terminal cancer, with his final wish to be legally married to his partner Peter going unfulfilled.

Mr Wallace recalls the story of Peter and Bon to me, his tone changing from optimistic to outraged.

It is beyond his belief that these two men aren’t married, despite the tenure of their relationship and the love they have for one another.

It is clear in Mr Wallace’s exasperation that Peter and Bon’s story, and many others like it, are what keeps him fighting for marriage equality.

“Until you get what you are entitled to, you keep fighting for it. We won’t give up. I won’t give up. I’ll tire, but new people will come in and join the fight,” he says.

“We know what the word husband or wife means. That is a significant person in someone’s life. Nothing compares to that,” he says.

Mr Wallace angrily describes the marriage equality issue in Australia as “embarrassing” and “shameful”.

Recent remarks by former tennis great Margaret Court only served to incense him further.

Mr Wallace and his Equal Love comrades protested Margaret Court being the keynote speaker at a Liberal Party fundraiser in Melbourne on the 22nd of June this year.

“The Liberal Party endorsing Court as their keynote speaker was worse than broadcasters airing her views. It was more endorsement for her,” he says.

Ali Hogg, convenor of the Equal Love campaign describes Mr Wallace’s involvement as “lifesaving.”

“He organises a lot of the sound and stage aspects of our rallies. His background in event management has helped us tremendously with our campaigns,” Ms Hogg says.

His expertise in sound and the stage was cultivated in his teenage years, where he chose to forgo admission to the prestigious Melbourne High School in favour of the performing arts focused Northcote Technical School.

“I did my orientation at Northcote Tech and fell in love,” he says.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Performing Arts from Ballarat University, he worked as an actor in stage shows and created a children’s touring theatre company, Jumpin’ Theatre.

As work in the performing arts dried up, he opened the 86, a cabaret bar in Fitzroy.

Anthony Wallace, owner of the 86. Photo: Anthony Wallace

“I shook a lot of cocktails in my time, but had very little cabaret bar experience,” he chuckles.

Nearly six years later, the 86 is the holder of a Guinness World Record for the staging of the longest non-stop Drag Queen and King stage show in the world at 36 hours, 36 minutes and 40 seconds.

“88 drag queens performed, with a drag queen on stage the whole time,” he says gleefully.

When Ms Hogg was asked to use three words to describe Mr Wallace she said, “he’s passionate, he’s driven and he’s opinionated.”

Passion, drive and opinion have been the ingredients to Anthony Wallace’s success and long may it continue.

The next Equal Love rally for marriage equality is on the 26th of August at the Victorian State Library, a Mass Illegal Wedding commemorating 13 years since the amended Marriage Act was legalised. 

Written by Nicholas Nakos

Arts recognise local Aboriginal history

This month a collection of indigenous performers and artists are coming together for Smith Street Dreaming as part of the annual Leaps and Bound Music festival.

Smith Street Dreaming 2017 is the biggest street celebration of the iconic thoroughfare’s Koorie history. The festival brings diverse groups of people to the suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy to recognise indigenous culture, the local Wurundjeri people, and its aboriginal community.

The free event will host some of the country’s best indigenous talent featuring live performances from Frank Yamma, Emma Donovan, Yung Warriors, Indigenous Hip Hop Projects, traditional dancers  Jindi Worabak and MC Shelley Ware.

The project is part of the Smith Street Working Group that, according to organisers, aims to build and celebrate better relationships between Yarra Council residents, workers and visitors to Smith Street by fostering understanding, respect and peace between all.

Members of the Smith Street Working Group include Aboriginal elders, indigenous community members, Victoria’s Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC), Yarra City Council, Victoria Police, the Salvation Army, Co-Health, Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee, Smith Street Business Association, Eastern Health, Melbourne Aboriginal Youth Sport and Recreation Co-Operative (MAYSAR) and restaurant Charcoal Lane.

The event was initiated when The Neighbourhood Justice Centre collaborated with Aboriginal elders, police and traders to discuss the complex issues of social inclusion, cultural respect, safety and diversity, which eventually lead to the formation of the Smith Street working group. Members of the working group realised they all wanted the same thing, and the indigenous music festival was born.

On the Smith Street Dreaming report NJC project officer, Maree Foelz, describes Smith Street Dreaming as “a fantastic event which helped build better relationships between the various communities that visit, live, work and gather on and around Smith Street,” which also encouraged her, personally, to “embrace the opportunity to learn from being part of the Smith Street Working Group.”

Rebecca Langley, lead activist in the community’s  Everything Advisory Group, this year is working with MAYSAR on a project for Smith Street Dreaming. With the focus of the event being reconciliation, respect and fairness, she believes that this will help show the broader community the importance of indigenous history to the area and the ability to connect with it.

To Amnesty International, she said: “I believe that Reconciliation Action Plans are a great opportunity to decolonise our work spaces by acknowledging and acting to change the part we play in the ongoing oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Smith Street Dreaming aims to bring together indigenous and non-indigenous community members to reconcile.

Image of Archie Roach at Smith Street Dreaming 2015, Photo: Antony Ket

In an interview for the Yarra Council’s history project, Archie Roach, indigenous Australian singer explained the importance of Fitzroy as a meeting place for Aboriginals.

“There was more to it than drinking. If people just saw it on the outside, you know, they’d just think, oh, a couple of old or young Koori people drinking in a pack, or whatever, vacant lot, vacant area – but it was more than that. That’s where I learned my history brother, from those areas, because all the old fellas, they knew more about me than I did, mate.”

Those who gather in Smith Street are referred to as “Parkies”, being mostly Aboriginal people who have long gathered on Smith Street. The ‘community of the Parkies’ has been fundamental for the passing on of Aboriginal stories and history according to the Smith Street Dreaming report.

Indigenous Hip Hop Project performer at Smith Street Dreaming 2016. Photo: Tony Proudfoot

The Indigenous Hip Hop Project team has experience in performing in events focusing on inclusiveness and recognition especially surrounding this particular event.

“The indigenous Hip hop Project team has [had] interactive performances running for 10 years … most performing in remote Aboriginal communities as well as everywhere around Australia,” said managing director, Michael Farah.

Having been involved in the Leaps and Bound music festival, the group realised the importance of hosting events like this giving them the platform to express themselves and perform.

“Dance performances for the event showcase more art going to hip hop [and therefore is] trying to get everyone [at the event] involved,” he said.

“Everyone is attached to music, most performances come with music and culturally it is about music and dance. Stories are told through traditional instrument[s] and also done through movement which is the best way to showcase because culturally, nothing is written down.”

He then went on to explain the ‘dreaming’ aspect of the festival and the importance of it.

“Everything is a story and [is] about dreaming … dreaming is sitting down listening to elders. This festival is bringing all that to the table. It is crucial to modern-day society when talking about bridging the gap and reconciliation.”

Smith Street Dreaming 2017 is taking place on the corner of Smith Street and Stanley Street, Collingwood, from 1pm-5pm, on Saturday, July 22.

For details go to Leaps and Bound Music festival website leapsandboundsmusicfestival.com.

Written by Zathia Bazeer

Emerging Melbourne artists are coming together for a 10 day cultural festival in the Yarra

This month a collection of refugee and culturally diverse artists and performers are coming together for the annual Emerge in Yarra festival.

Thanks to Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV), as part of the Community Cultural Development (CCD) program for “culturally and linguistically diverse emerging and refugee artists and communities in Victoria” a plethora of cultural talents will be showcased in the City of Yarra.

This year’s Emerge in Yarra festival will present 10 events over 10 days and will include a delicious array of cultural food, amazing performances, and enriching cultural experiences; expect language lessons along with innovative musical experiences. There really is something for everyone.

Event organiser Frejya MacFarlane has experienced the enriching culture surrounding Emerge. Having been involved in several MAV events over the past couple of years, she expresses the importance of hosting events like Emerge in Yarra festival.

“It’s all about developing relationships with emerging refugee communities and giving them a platform to be more involved in the arts and developing programs,” she said.

Emerge artists and performers hail from all walks of life, each with a story to share with their Yarra community. Neda Rahmani is a seasoned professional performer and has been involved with MAV since around 1999.

This year Neda is heading up her favourite festival session: Cookin’ up Community, held at the Collingwood Community Kitchen on Tuesday, July 4, at 7.30 pm. Cookin’ up Community unites a cultural cooking experience with music, songs, and stories from distant homelands.

In a collaboration like no other, the Cookin’ up Community session will blend the Iran/Persian culinary roots of  Neda Rahmani with Saba Alemayoh’s East African cuisine, to represent the unique meals passed down from their mothers.

“My cuisine is a great mélange of different flavours and I can’t wait to see what happens when we put each other’s dishes side by side,” Neda said.

“We all have to eat. We all share that human need to nourish and I think people are interested in learning something new and witnessing something new,” she said.

This year’s Emerge in Yarra festival is bringing about the importance of welcoming and learning about new cultures that live right around us.

Art by I-Yen (Molly). Photo: Emerge.

Molly Chen, a new visual artist on the Emerge scene is particularly excited to showcase her collaboration with Yumemi Hiraki at The Ownership Project in Fitzroy. Their exhibit will showcase spatial installations in a “home setting” and elevate the discussion of history surrounding their blend of Taiwanese (Molly) and Japanese (Yumemi) backgrounds.

“It’s a very storytelling exhibition and I expect everyone to come and find it very playful, funny and delightful, but at the same time have a strong feeling surrounding discussion about the trauma and the history in our show,” Miss Chen said.

With a medium cultivated by the artists and their cultural values, Emerge in Yarra will be the ultimate cultural experience for 2017. The 10-day festival will bring forth stories of courage, and events that serve a strong purpose in bringing the community together.

For a full list of programs occurring in Emerge in Yarra 2017, click here.

Written by Grace Evans 

 

Who run the world? Girls

That’s right as the queen herself Beyonce said, girls do run the world.

This year Last Minute Productions and Stayfly Sydney are hosting the movie screening of Girl Power, on February 24 at Grumpy’s Green in Fitzroy, the first documentary about the incredible lives of female graffiti and street artists around the world.

The film has been selected from thousands of applicants to be a part of the 19th SEOUL Women’s Film Festival, happening this year.

Following Czech graffiti artist and writer Sany, who decided in 2009 to capture female emancipation in graffiti on film, Girl Power presents stories from across the world encapsulating the successes and challenges of females who have dedicated their lives to graffiti and street art in a male-dominated community.

Last Minute Productions Music Coordinator Jurnan Thorn said, “Girl Power highlights and profiles women in the art formats of painting steel and street art.”

Miss Thorn connected with Sany when she came to Australia to film parts of Girl Power. In an effort to bring the documentary to Melbourne, Last Minute Productions and Stayfly Sydney stepped in to help.

Girl Power is set to open up the discussion surrounding graffiti being perceived as vandalism and the way graffiti has been portrayed as a male dominated art expression.

Street artist and owner of Juddy Roller, a creative street art and graffiti management company in Fitzroy, Shaun Hossack said, “Females are super important to the industry, but hugely underrepresented.”

When asked about Girl Power, Hossack said, “I think anything that presents woman as equal participants in any industry is going to be positive for everyone, and there’s obviously a movement happening and an awakening within people.”

If you’re all for equal representation, exceptional films and live music, Girl Power will not disappoint. The screening will also include live artists and performers such as Wonqi Rose ft Miss Money Toast and LADY LASH.

Head here to book your tickets for Girl Power.

Written by Grace Evans

The Supper Market at the Abbotsford Convent

If you’re craving music, great food, an escape from the frantic city, and good vibes all at the same time, then I have the place for you!

Set in the beautiful Abbotsford Convent, The Supper Market has returned for 2017 and will be running right through until the end of February.

The historic Abbotsford Convent is home to the market every Friday night from 5 pm to 9.30 pm, where you can experience a magical world full of live music, food stalls, hand-made crafts and much more.

An aroma of sweet chocolate donuts and salty sweet potato chips entice you to the food trucks, taking up prime spots at the market – there is something for all taste buds with cuisines ranging from Ratatouille Burgers through to the tastes of the Himalayas.

One of Melbourne’s most popular food trucks, The Little Mushroom Co. has a permanent park for this year’s Supper Market, tempting visitors with their widely sought after burgers.

The Little Mushroom Co. owner Bryan Mooney said the Abbotsford Convent is a beautiful space for the market and a great environment to sell food.

“Our food is quirky and we take a lot of care developing the food and we can take over a year to make a menu item,” he said.

Alongside great food to indulge in there is also great music to entertain you throughout the night with electronic pop, live bands and African dance music.

The Abbotsford Convent. Photo: Theresa Harrison

Event organiser Jane Goodrich said the event sparked from a Sunday market that was previously held at the venue, and they decided the spot was perfect for a relaxing Friday night market.

“The main asset is the really beautiful location and you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city while being surrounded by the beautiful heritage gardens of the convent,” she said.

As you wonder around the markets there is plenty to see and buy, with handcrafted jewellery and vintage threads making an appearance.

The Supper Market is the place to spend a Friday evening after a hectic week of work. With another three markets to go, enjoy the relaxing twilight markets in one of Melbournes most iconic and scenic spaces.

And best of all, it’s puppy friendly.

For more information about The Supper Market or other events at the Abbotsford Convent click here.

Written by Grace Evans

 

A night of laughs with a serious message set to hit the City of Yarra

Timed to coincide with the controversial Australia Day holiday, a comedy gala is being held to raise awareness of what the date means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The Reconciliation Comedy Gala will be held at the Malthouse Theatre on 26 January, and will feature a number of comedy greats in the line-up.

Expected to run for around three hours, all of the funds from the show will go towards the City of Yarra’s Stolen Generations Marker Project.

According to Yarra City Council, the Marker Project aims to “honour the struggles of the Stolen Generations as well as acknowledge the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, communities, clans and groups who seek to heal from the past.” 

Aimed to be completed in November, the project will invite 5 artists to contribute design ideas intended to remind people of the impacts inflicted by past racist government actions on the Indigenous Australian people.

Malthouse Theatre Associate Producer Jason Tamiru said that “the Reconciliation Gala will feature a selection of Australia’s most prominent comedians, and promote recognition of Australia’s Stolen Generation.”

The bill will feature Australian comedy and music greats including MCs Uncle Jack Charles and Judith Lucy, along with Wil Anderson, Tom Ballard, Anne Edmonds, Hannah Gadsby, Tom Gleeson, Shiralee Hood, Kevin Kropinyeri, Bunna Lawrie, Perfect Tripod (Eddie Perfect and Tripod), Dane Simpson, Nelly Thomas, and The Koori Youth Will Shake Spears dance group.

In the comedy business for seven years, Australia’s Number One Female Aboriginal Comedian Shiralee Hood says it’s time to deepen the conversation surrounding Australia Day, and invite others to listen to the struggles experienced by the Stolen Generations.

As we begin to see a growing number of Australians recognising the sadness behind Australia Day, Ms Hood agrees that now is the perfect time to educate. Ms Hood said comedy has helped to establish a platform where people can discuss global and political issues light-heartedly.

“Comedy is a great form of observing the world and then expressing what we see in society,” she said.

Ms Hood has hope that we can all come together and acknowledge those families affected by the Stolen Generations.

“I feel privileged to be able to represent the Indigenous community and have a great platform to do so,” she said.

Ms Hood is looking forward to the gala, and invites everyone to get along to the Malthouse Theatre for a laugh and to listen to the show’s message.

The Reconciliation Comedy Gala will be held at the Malthouse Theatre on January 26 from 2:30 pm.

Check out the Malthouse Theatre website for further details on ticket sales and prices.

Written by Grace Evans

City of Comedy

You might not know it, but the City of Yarra is home to a thriving stand-up comedy scene. With six comedy nights featuring a variety of performances, we’re spoilt for choice for a weekly dose of chuckles. YR spoke to the room runners to get the low-down.

ROCHESTER COMEDY
The Rochester Hotel
202 Johnston St, Fitzroy

Hanging its hat in the heart of Fitzroy, Rochester Comedy runs every Thursday night from 8:30pm to 10:30pm. Entry is free.

Showcasing a mix of professional comics and up-and-comers, Rochester Comedy has hosted such Victorian comedic powerhouses as Charlie Pickering, Celia Pacquola, Dave Thornton and Greg Fleet, to name a few.

“I try to make it as eclectic as possible whilst still delivering the best night I can,” said room runner and comic, Brendan Maloney.

Maloney started running comedy nights shortly after his second-ever comedy performance.

After advancing through the first two rounds of a nationwide comedy competition, he found that securing regular gigs to practice and improve his craft was no easy task.

“At the time I was perplexed but quickly learnt that there’s 500 budding comics out there all looking for the same spot,” he said.

An older comic advised him to start up his own room, so he took up the mantle and did just that.

Rochester Comedy enjoys a great deal of success, but running a room has its challenges.

“The biggest challenge is getting people through the door,” said Maloney.

In Fitzroy and Collingwood, punters are spoilt for choice in terms of entertainment options. Many don’t even know that there are stand-up comedy nights in the area.

Running a room also has its rewards. To Maloney, it’s getting to laugh every week and seeing comics improve, not to mention getting some precious stage time himself.

So why come to the Rochy for comedy?

In the succinct words of Maloney himself: “The best comics in the country, for free, and there’s cheap beer too!”

Comedians on stage. Photo: Rochester Comedy
Comedians on stage at Rochester Comedy. Photo: Rochester Comedy

DIRTY SECRETS COMEDY
Caz Reitop’s Dirty Secrets
80 Smith St, Collingwood

Duck into Caz Reitop’s Dirty Secrets on Smith Street on a Wednesday night, descend the stairs and you will find yourself in an intimate, low-ceilinged basement space perfect for comedy.

Dirty Secrets is a comedy venue that has been running for more than six years with various room runners at its helm. In its current incarnation, it’s overseen by a group of five Melbourne comics and has been operating for about four months.

The night already has a steady following that sees attendance from both regular punters and new faces alike.

Running from 8.30pm to 10:30pm every Wednesday, it features a medley of established performers and newer comics.

“It’s an intimate venue that has its own unique charm, and our performers complement that with some serious hilarity and silliness,” said Firdy Billimoria, one of the five room runners.

Comedian on stage at Dirty Secrets Comedy. Photo: Dirty Secrets Comedy
Comedian on stage at Dirty Secrets Comedy. Photo: Dirty Secrets Comedy

He explained that one of the rewards of running Dirty Secrets Comedy is getting audience walk-ins off the street, who took a chance and ended up thoroughly enjoying the entertainment and staying to the end.

An added bonus is if they come back the following week, and the week after that.

Of course, there are challenges too. Dealing with the influx of requests from comics for chronically limited spots is a dilemma every comedy night has to contend with.

Getting audiences in on cold winter nights is yet another test that room runners are all-too-familiar with. And of course, with comedy, there’s the occasional heckler who has over-imbibed, which can really throw a spanner in the works.

Although, witnessing a comic put down a heckler to the rapturous applause of the audience is a special treat. (But don’t heckle, it’s not part of the show!)

Such is the beauty of a well-run stand-up comedy night. A mix of well-crafted material, off-the-cuff jokes, professionals and amateurs, a dynamic audience; it all meshes together into an electric experience and sense of immediacy few entertainment formats can match.

CATFISH COMEDY
The Catfish Bar
30-32 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

At the west end of Gertrude street is a Philly Cheesesteak-serving, craft beer-loving bar called The Catfish.

Rock up on a Tuesday evening, hit the upstairs bar and you’ll find yourself at Catfish Comedy. Using a showcase format, it features lesser-known, top-quality acts as well as an established weekly big-name headline act from the land of TV or Radio.

Entry costs $12, so this is not an open mic event. While open mic comedy is great, paid comedy means that the quality is often a lot more consistent. The material is by now honed and crafted, having graduated from the experimental stage.

Room runner Ben Vernel points out the unique challenge of running the night: “Room-running is mostly a mixture of loudly telling everyone to come see the show, and herding cats,” he explains.

From the scheduling conflicts of performers who may be double-booked, to ensuring that a decent-sized audience turns out, room running is a low-paid, low recognition labour of love.

“The perks are not exactly tangible things,” he explains.

He does it for both a love for comedy and for the satisfaction that comes from putting on a show where the audience is entertained and performers succeed.

Vernel takes pride in crafting a good show, and paying comedians.

“Being able to pay comedians, even if it’s not heaps, is a good feeling,” he says, explaining that encouraging an economy for comedy is an important objective.

So if you’re looking for a consistently good comedy night at a great pub in Fitzroy, featuring a mix of new comedians as well as stalwarts of the industry, make your way to The Catfish on Tuesday nights.

WILDE WILDE WEST COMEDY
The Wilde Bar
153 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

Running every Tuesday from 8pm, Wilde Wilde West Comedy is a ‘half-booked, half sign-up act’ stand-up comedy night.

The show runs in three brackets, with the first two being a mix of sign-up and booked acts, and the last featuring exclusively open mic spots.

This interesting formula often results in an eclectic mix of performers, from greenhorns trying out stand-up for the first time, to multiple Raw Comedy winners, to international performers and everyone in between.

Managing a multi-bracketed comedy night can be stressful, but the four comics who run the night take it in their stride.

“It’s rewarding to see a great comic try new material or a new comic shine,” explains Angus Hodge, one of the room runners.

The night started when the upstairs room was up for grabs and four local comics got together to put their own spin on a comedy night. Like many of the other rooms in this list, its location is a major advantage.

Apart from its accessibility, Hodge explains, it’s a “relaxed part of town and open to us allowing performers to try new things, and that’s really special.”

The particular magic of this room is when it’s packed to the rafters and there is great energy from the audience, and then, for example, everything falls into place and a previously unknown or very fresh comic puts on an amazing performance and dazzles the room.

It’s part of the magic that often reveals itself at these comedy nights.

Need more reasons to ride on in to the Wilde Wilde West? 

Entry is free, the drinks are on special and there are great acts having fun and exploring their potential.

Not too shabby for a Tuesday night.

OPEN MIC COMEDY
Station 59 Bar
59 Church St, Richmond

Leaving Fitzroy and Collingwood for a moment, let’s go to Church Street in Richmond. Next to a fire station in a traditional pub called Station 59, every Wednesday night you will find Open Mic Comedy.

Currently in its fifth year, Open Mic Comedy is a pure open mic room, meaning anyone can jump up to do a spot.

“We book in a handful of acts and then run a standby list in case of no-shows,” said room runner Kieran Butler.

They welcome everyone and strive to foster a supportive environment and take the rough with the smooth.

This means that if you ‘die’ on stage (comedian speak for “I got no laughs”) you can come back for as long as you want and keep having a go.

“We stick to our original mission statement of ‘No Cliques, No Fear, No Favour’, says Butler.

Photo: Courtesy of DVO Media
Photo: Courtesy of DVO Media

Open Mic Comedy at Station 59 sees a wide range of performances, from nervous first-timers to comedians who’ve been performing for years.

Many established comedians cut their teeth doing comedy at Station 59, which also runs a ‘Free Comedy Festival’ at its venue during the Comedy Festival every year.

Apart from hilarious shenanigans, they’ve hosted a number of fundraising comedy nights, with proceeds going to refugee advocacy groups, Seeing-Eye Dogs Victoria and relief efforts in Fiji.

“You do comedy for the laughter mainly, but I have made a lot of friends along the way,” Butler said.

So if you’re after a supportive, open mic comedy night where the laughs are as plentiful as the support and love, rock up to Station 59 on a Wednesday night.

Pro-tip: Put your name on the standby list if you feel the comedy gods speaking to you and want to have a go. Be spontaneous!

Audience. Photo: Courtesy of DVO Media
Audience enjoying the comedy sets at Station 59. Photo: Courtesy of DVO Media

THURSDAY NIGHT COMEDY AT GEORGE’S
George’s Bar
120 Johnston St, Fitzroy

Coming back to Fitzroy, we have George’s Bar. Inspired by fictional comedy character George Costanza from the legendary sitcom ‘Seinfeld’, what better venue in which to host a comedy night?

Thursday Night Comedy at George’s is free and it runs for about two hours, from 8pm on.

Run by two comedians who wish to remain anonymous, it all began when they noticed the bar was opening and saw an opportunity to run a comedy night that would be a natural fit with its theme.

It’s also a great opportunity for up-and-coming comedians to share the stage with comedy legends.

The comedy night has enjoyed the likes of Luke McGregor, Greg Fleet and Celia Pacquola, to name but a few.

It’s also home to the “Are you funnier than George” competition, where newer performers get a chance to showcase their talent.

What can the average punter expect? A friendly room in a great bar in a great location; it offers a mix of comedians at a fantastic level.

So if those pretzels are making you thirsty, grab a beer or cocktail on a Thursday night at George’s and drink deep from the comedy fountain.

By Garry Johal