Matty and I were on our way back from a camping trip and visiting his Mum and Dad in northern NSW our first real ‘holiday’ since we moved to the Hunter Valley in July 2016.
We were chatting away about how proud we were of what we’d accomplished and sharing our mutual frustration that we hadn’t really spent enough time cultivating new friendships in our new home.
It was the weekend of Lovedale Long Lunch which sees up to 20,000 people a day visit seven wineries in the Hunter Valley.
“There should be a LLL for the gays” said Matty innocently “then we’d make some new friends”.
When we first launched the Facebook group ‘Pokolbin Pride‘ we both thought we’d end up hosting a lunch sometime at our restaurant, Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen, and connecting with some of the LGBTI locals that we knew were out and about but we just hadn’t met them yet.
What happened next was astonishing…
- Overnight we gained about 400 followers, mainly locals, all voicing their excitement that someone was creating a gay and lesbian festival in the Hunter Valley
- Not really knowing what to do next we said we’d announce the details of the festival when we hit 3000 followers (we thought this would kick the project into the long grass for a bit)
- About 10 days later we’d notched up about 3100 followers
- True to our word we’d did a quick sense check of what else was going on in the valley in the spring and found a ‘clean’ weekend (20th to 24th October 2016)
- We now have a five day festival of LGBTI events and activities being hosted by us and a collection of other businesses in the Hunter Valley running as a social enterprise
Our ‘corporate’ kicked in and we created a survey to ask our audience what they wanted from a regional LGBTI event and we’ve shared the results with business community – Cessnock Council threw a business networking event so that we could share the story and more than 100 people showed up.
The outcome is that we’ve put together a calendar of events that the community said they wanted – this won’t be a Sydney Mardi Gras in the vines.
We have a number of free events including a family and pet friendly picnic, an art exhibition and markets featuring LGBTI businesses and crafts alongside community groups and charities.
There’s entertainment from local and national talent starting at $12.50 a ticket and a host of spectacular dinners and parties to attend over the five days and nights.
Everything is going to have special LGBTI twist so expect performers popping up all over the valley.
A portion of every ticket sold and the overall profits from the festival will be shared with the LGBTI community through a good cause fund.
You can get involved by bringing your local or national business or community group along to the markets (apply here).
You can register your interest as a performer of any description here.
Or you can just join our mailing list to make sure that don’t miss out on what’s happening and when.
See you in October xxx