PROFILE: Natalie Moynihan

Natalie Moynihan volunteering for her first ChillOut Street Parade 2003.jpeg

Natalie Moynihan was a teenager when she first got involved with ChillOut. Growing up in Daylesford, she was aware of the festival in its very early days and attended a number of ChillOut Festivals while she was still at high school.

When I was I think about 15 years old I went along to Carnival Day – I think it was the first year that it was held at Victoria Park ... I just thought it was so much fun, it was so chilled out. It was only fairly small, there were only probably ten stalls or less at that point, but there were people just sitting around on the oval listening to cruisy music, had their eskies next to them, brought their own picnic.

When she turned 18, Natalie was invited to help volunteer at a drag show at The Palais in Hepburn during the event. ‘As I got a bit older I worked out how I could put my foot in the door a little bit and get involved ... and this incredible love affair started with the festival.’

Starting out as a volunteer, Natalie did a number of different small, but crucial jobs during the festival weekend. From picking up rubbish, to putting on wristbands and then selling tickets, she worked her way through a lot of the volunteer jobs, getting to know how the festival worked. ‘It’s just as important picking up rubbish as it is managing money, as it is selling tickets, running the stage ... it was a way of seeing how the festival worked.’

When the street parade first started, Natalie worked as a marshal to help keep the road clear and the parade traffic moving.

Then one year one of the committee members who was running the parade also had a float and I saw that she was struggling to do both – to have a float in the parade but also put float entrants into order. So from that year onwards I became the street parade director and I was parade director for 13 years. That became my baby I guess.

Being so involved with the development of ChillOut as a volunteer and then a committee member for over 16 years, Natalie saw a lot of change and development in the festival in general, but also the parade.

In the start it had about three entrants – they would just go around the main street of Daylesford about six times because we didn’t have anything to fill it up ... The year I retired ... we had probably 40 entrants and there were more entrants than there was space to go around ... We’ve had people from as far as WA come over to Daylesford to be part of our tiny, little parade ... it’s certainly no Mardi Gras but that’s what we love about it. It’s cheesy, and it’s fun, and it’s inclusive, it’s bright and sparkly, and loving.

Being only 18 years old when she first joined the ChillOut committee, Natalie did not yet know what skillset she could bring to the festival. ‘A lot of people would join the committee with a specific skill, they might have been really good with IT ... public relations ... I didn’t know what I could do to help, I just wanted to be involved.’ One of the most useful things Natalie was able to bring to the committee was her youth and the fact that she grew up in Daylesford. ‘I knew Daylesford really well.’

Growing up in Daylesford Natalie doesn’t recall being aware that the town was in any way different: ‘It wasn’t really anything that was really highlighted as being an LGBT community or a straight community, we were just a community.’

Being on the ChillOut committee was a huge commitment and not one that Natalie took on lightly. ‘It’s not just the four days over the ChillOut long weekend, it’s basically full time for ... almost six months, of the year. Weekly, fortnightly meetings at the start go into almost every day in the last couple of weeks, it’s a big commitment.’ She’s seen it grow, change, fail and recover in the time she’s been involved.         

To see the committee go from just a few people sitting around a table throwing ideas around, maybe jotting a few minutes, to it becoming a really well-oiled machine as to what Merryn and Jen have got it to today, it’s an absolute testament because it’s a very, very hard thing to do.

Despite the hard work, Natalie has loved being part of the ChillOut family. ‘It became part of my life, a huge part of my life’, she reflects:

And if you can still stick with it and still love it after the weekend, after all the hard work, after some days when you only get three or four hours' sleep a night, and you've come back again, you know that you're doing something right. You know that when people come up to you in the street and say 'thank you, I've had the best weekend', or 'I met my future wife or husband here' or 'we met at ChillOut ten years ago and we're still together and we come to ChillOut every year to celebrate our anniversary', you just go, wow, that's really special to be part of someone's history. So I think we are creating history, it's a beautiful thing.

All quotes taken from an interview with Natalie Moynihan, 18 December 2017.