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Celebrating 40 Years

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2020, St Kilda Festival is one of Australia’s oldest music festivals.

Focused on supporting Australia’s homegrown musical talent, since its inception in 1980 the iconic event has played host to over 1,500 bands, and annually attracts over 400,000 people to St Kilda’s picturesque foreshore.

Held on the second Sunday in February, the festival has been shaped by its many performers, participants and audiences, along with the residents, businesses and the local community of St Kilda. These contributions have made the festival what it is today and, more than anything else, represents the many stories of the past 40 years.

St Kilda Festival first arose as a means to amend the perception of St Kilda as Melbourne’s sleazy underbelly, and ‘Sin City’ (The Herald). Speaking on the inaugural event, Mayor Carrie King stated that St Kilda Festival 'intended to show that there are some beautiful and very positive aspects to community life in St Kilda,' and highlight how the area was home to some of Melbourne’s most creative residents and a famous live music scene.

From these humble beginnings, St Kilda Festival was born in March 1980, with the first event coinciding with St Kilda’s 125th anniversary as a city.

Today, music stands as the defining feature of the St Kilda Festival program, however this was not always the case. In its early years there were no dedicated music stages, however by 1996 eight separate stages had been created throughout the Festival site – each showcasing differing and distinct musical genres.

There is no doubt that the Festival has helped launch the careers of numerous Australian musicians, with the following notable musicians all gracing the Festival’s stages (amongst many others):

Alison Wonderland ● Architecture in Helsinki ● Bliss N Eso ● Bluejuice ● British India ● Cat Empire ● Client Liaison ● Daryl Braithwaite ● Electric Fields ● Hayden James ● Hot Dub Time Machine ● Hunters and Collectors ● Jebediah ● John Butler Trio ● Kate Cebrano ● Kate Miller-Heidke ● Killing Heidi ● Little Birdy ● Mental as Anything  ● Missy Higgins ● Owl Eyes ● Paul Kelly ● Pete Murray ● San Cisco ● Sneaky Sound System ● Spiderbait ● Tash Sultana

Alongside the music programming, St Kilda Festival has always run a program of other activities for visitors to enjoy. From firework displays, fishing and volleyball competitions and craft workshops to parades and dance demonstrations, the Festival’s entertainment spans far and wide.

The 2020 St Kilda Festival was the 40th anniversary of this iconic community event, and an opportunity to celebrate not only the remarkable suburb of St Kilda, but the colourful 40-year history of the annual community event.

To celebrate our 40th anniversary, we’ve created a series of five postcards from across the decades.