Dolly Diamond, Sheldon Riley and Leather Lungs on queer culture, changing perceptions and the upcoming ChillOut Festival

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Dolly Diamond, Sheldon Riley and Leather Lungs on queer culture, changing perceptions and the upcoming ChillOut Festival


ChillOut Festival is now celebrating 25 years: a quarter century of bringing queer culture front and centre through music, dance, and most importantly, party.

This year’s incarnation is bigger than ever, boasting a stacked line-up of artists who cover modern music, drag, dance, theatre, and a whole lot more, which you can dive into here.

Dolly Diamond is one of Australia’s most prolific performers, who has graced stages at a variety of events, festivals and shows across the world. Sheldon Riley has garnered attention on shows like The Voice and America’s Got Talent, and is in the running to represent Australia at Eurovision, while Leather Lungs is an amazing vocalist that will make you laugh, dance, sing, and a whole lot more.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around the region here

The festival brings each of these performers together in different capacities, each finding a special meaning in coming and sharing their talents with audiences. They’ll be hitting the stage in Daylesford this March.

“I’ve been doing the festival a long time. In the beginning, it was obviously a lot smaller, but the premise of it has never been any different. The idea is to involve everyone in Daylesford’s surrounding area, for it to be welcoming of everybody,” Dolly says.

“I think part of what makes it magical is that it isn’t in central Melbourne, or it isn’t in Sydney, it’s in this rural community, and I think the community thrive on it too, the people love it,” Leather Lungs says. “(Daylesford) is such a magical place out there as well. It’s so beautiful. I don’t think it would have the same kind of success if it was in St Kilda or something.”

For many of these performers, it marks the first time they’ve played a show in a number of years and are excited to come together with people they haven’t met and bring some good vibes to the ChillOut audience. The camaraderie won’t be lacking; there’ll be a great friendship among the featured performers, many of whom have worked together in the past.

There’ll also be some well-known ambassadors for the event. Alongside Dolly Diamond, expect the likes of Molly Meldrum, Ro Allen and Nate Byrne.

“I think (being an ambassador) it’s one of those ones where you just get to enjoy everything that’s happening…maybe there’s a little bit of waving going on,” Diamond adds with a laugh.

“Nate Byrne and I are good mates, he does the weather on ABC Breakfast, and I’m a regular on there. RO Allen and I have known each other for a very long time, and I’ve been out many times with Molly Meldrum, so I’m familiar with all of the other ambassadors.

“I enjoy waffling around and saying hello to everyone and just making sure that everyone else is having a good time, and as long as I’ve got a drink, I’m alright with that.”

“I’m excited to meet everybody, what I’m excited about is that the line-up is very different, it’s made up of lots of different people who have very different styles of life,” Riley adds.

“To me, I look back at how far I’ve come, and it’s so awesome that this even exists, and to be able to work with such an awesome line-up, I’m just really excited to work with everyone.”

With many events in the queer world often limited to major cities, Lungs, Diamond and Riley each agree with the sentiment that they’re able to represent their culture, offering young people someone to look up to, especially in the country, where young people who feel a little different may be struggling.

“It’s just so important for community awareness, and to let everybody know that you can be yourself anywhere in the country, and know that there are groups of people in the country that will support you everywhere that you are, which is really exciting and really important,” Riley says.

“It’s just another really exciting thing for me to go out and do, because a lot of the time things that I do are in major cities. I’m so excited to go out and know that there are festivals as big as this one out in parts of Australia that you wouldn’t really expect to have a strong queer community.”

With such a momentous lineup spread across multiple events, including Scott Cairne, Ally Fowler Kylie Auldist, Plaster of Paris, Daddy, Brian Mannix and KEiiNO (Norway) just to name a few, it’s easy to forget how far queer culture has come thanks to the tireless work of festivals like ChillOut and the performers who give their all.

The trio say there has been a great deal of progression in recent years, with conditions improving for drag artists and queer performers who are too often left out of mainstream festivities. For them, ChillOut is a leap in the right direction, but as Leather Lungs notes, in some areas, there is still so far to go.

“It’s definitely come a long way,” Lungs says. “I guess the progression to come is that there are a lot of religious groups or people that are right wing, and don’t want their children to be read a story by a drag king or drag queen, they’re scared of what that might bring up for their children. I just don’t think there’s any threat to it, you know?”

The family-friendly festival offers great performances for all people. Chillout Festival is happening March 10 – 14 in Daylesford, grab your tickets here.