Vegan Editor Elizabeth Usher gets the inside scoop from organiser Mem Davis and headliner Tigerlily on an exciting new event to hit the vegan calendar in September.
2014 was a breakthrough year for major vegan events in the Sydney region, with the Cruelty Free Festival and Sydney Vegan Expo being joined for the first time by a third large-scale affair, the Sydney Vegan Festival. All three returned for a couple of years, and then 2017 saw the beginning of a shift away from these annual ‘extraveganzas’ towards more regular ‘market’ events, with Vegan NSW moving from holding the annual Sydney Vegan Expo to the monthly Sydney Vegan Market (SVM), alongside the new twice-yearly Alive Plant Based Festival in Gosford.
By late 2019, there was a palpable sense of jubilation in the local vegan community that we had reached a point where this impressive level of regular vegan event activity was sustainable! Of course, in early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic threw a great big spanner in the works, and while thankfully the SVM and Alive events have both started back up again, there’ve obviously been significant challenges in how to negotiate organising events on this scale in the current environment.
With this in mind, it would take a significant amount of chutzpah to consider 2022 as a good time to launch a new venture that’s aiming to become a marquee vegan event for the Greater Sydney region – and indeed the whole country. Yet, that’s exactly what Sydney-raised and Wollongong-based Mem Davis is doing right now – and The Sentinel has scored an exclusive interview to share all the details with you! It’s been extremely hard to keep my excitement under wraps since Davis approached me at the end of March to see if I would be available to perform at the first ever Plant Vibes Music Festival, to be held at Wollongong’s UniBar on Saturday 17 September. But today, I can finally spill the beans on what’s sure to make a big splash in the local vegan pond!
As if it’s not enough to be starting up a vegan-friendly music festival, Davis is actually running the equivalent of three separate events all on the one day.
There’s the daytime all-ages, family-friendly portion, running from 10am to 4pm, with specialty kids’ performers and activities, food stalls, merch stalls and a ‘local artists’ showcase stage. And yes, it will be dog-friendly too!
From 4pm onwards it will be 18+ only, so those with all-day passes will be taken into an indoor area inside the UniBar to experience a special VIP performance from one of the artists for the changeover period, until the final section of the programme kicks off at 6pm on the main outside stage with the headline acts – who are of course all vegan!
When talking about the musical line-up, Davis laughs as she says: “I just went for all the good vegan artists that I could find and wanted to put them on the same bill. There is absolutely no coherence whatsoever to the types of musicians that we have. We’ve got everything from country to rap to DJs to modern pop … We’ve got punk rock; there’s a little bit of everything!
“I don’t know how that’s going to go down in terms of people’s musical tastes but again it’s about showcasing the different genres of vegan artists out there and you know showing I guess that we don’t all live in a box, and just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you eat lettuces and tomatoes, and just because you’re a vegan artist doesn’t mean you have a particular sound or a particular look. You can be a punk rocker and you can be everything else!”
First release ticket sales begin today, along with the announcement that the Plant Vibe Music Festival’s headline act is the one and only Tigerlily! Tickets will become full price in two weeks, when the rest of the line up is announced.
Tigerlily, aka Dara Lawson, grew up in Maroubra and has been a vocal vegan for years. Her main Instagram account boasts over half a million followers, but she also runs a vegan-focused account with over 22,000 followers that specifically has “Vegan for the animals” written in the bio!
She told The Sentinel, “I’m incredibly excited to be performing at Plant Vibes Fest later in the year. It’s the first festival of its kind in Australia and it feels great to align my commitment to veganism with my passion for DJ-ing!”
So, what is it about this new-kid-on-the-block festival that’s so different from any of the other large-scale vegan events Sydney has seen? Davis explains that it’s the twin focus of music and supporting sanctuaries: “The purpose of the festival was always to raise funds for animal sanctuaries, because they’ve done it tough, they’ve had floods and fires and drought and the rising cost of feed.”
Davis has been working towards this event for some years now, and it was originally going to be supporting nine different sanctuaries, but sadly A Poultry Place is no longer operating after Bede Carmody’s death late last year, leaving eight sanctuaries that will be the beneficiaries of the day. However, that list of eight does include two that took in A Poultry Place residents at that time.
Davis goes on to stress: “The other stipulation we have for this festival is that all artists get paid. Because after Covid, musicians suffered so much. The whole industry was shut down and musicians have always been the first to come forward when it comes to charity, we do all the concerts to raise the money for all the causes, and all of a sudden we had you know zero income. So that’s something I won’t compromise on.”
Being a fundraiser, Davis is working with a chartered accountant and running the books by Vegan Australia to ensure the handling of funds is 100% transparent and above board. As she says, “I wanted to have a public face that people knew and trusted to give us the ok.”
She also talks very positively about her team: “You can’t pull off a music festival by yourself, you need more than one person!” She highlights Mark Lenzo, who runs the Illawarra Music Foundry, as her “co-pilot”, and they’re joined by Greg Davis and Millie Herath. Although not everyone involved at every level behind the scenes is vegan, Davis expounds: “For me it comes down to impact, if these are the right people to make this happen, then those are the people I need to work with … I feel so lucky to have a team of people who have the same vision, who understand the process and are completely on board with making it happen.”
We briefly discuss the enormity of what “making it happen” entails – and Davis admits, “It’s kind of epic, yeah, because there’s so much work involved! … It’s massively challenging but it’s also so much fun!”
I, for one, am so glad that Davis and her team are taking on this mammoth task, as it’s great to have a spectacular event such as this to look forward to later this year! Be sure to snap up your first release tickets before the price rise next month. That way you’ll be guaranteeing yourself a fantastic day out, plus supporting these eight sanctuaries that will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the Plant Vibes Music Festival:
- Little Oak Sanctuary
- Whisker Woods Sanctuary
- A Place of Peace Sanctuary
- Lucky Stars Sanctuary
- Peanuts Wellbeing Sanctuary
- NSW Hen Rescue
- Moo to Ewe Farm Sanctuary
- Sugarshine Farm Sanctuary
Early release tickets available from midday today (Thursday, 26 May 2022) for two weeks, after which the higher-priced second release tickets will be available.
Day: 10am-4pm (all ages) $20 for adults, $10 for children under12.
Night: 6pm-midnight (18+ only) $99.
All day: 10am-midnight (18+ only) – includes VIP session 4pm-6pm $120.22.
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