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Leanne Spain was a local business operator and member of Springs Connections when the idea of a one-day festival for Daylesford was first floated. ‘I was there at the start of ChillOut’, she recalls, ‘a very exciting time back in 1997’. Leanne put her hand up to take on the role of president of the first ChillOut organising committee. ‘I don’t even know that we used those terms back then’, she reflects:

Back in the day we didn’t realise that we were creating history ... it was sort of like, yeah we’ll get together as a little group and we’ll see what we can do as a result of starting something that met aspects like having a festival, bringing people into that region, into Daylesford area, celebrate who we are and what we do.

It was hard work, but with a small, dedicated team, the early years of ChillOut proved to be more successful than its founders could have hoped. As Leanne remembers, ‘everything sort of pulled together on the day and it really did launch us for bigger and better things’.

For the next five years, Leanne remained on the ChillOut committee and saw the festival bloom and grow. Her final year on the committee coincided with the festival’s expansion across the whole four days of the Labour Day weekend. According to Leanne, the choice of the Labour Day weekend in March was primarily because it fitted into the LGBTI events calendar as a nice, relaxing event to follow the hype of Midsumma and Mardi Gras. The fact that it was a long weekend was a secondary consideration, although as Leanne remembers, ‘I certainly saw the potential ... for this to become a long weekend event’.

By the time she stepped down, Leanne had noticed a definite shift in the gender influence of the festival. ‘In the early days, it was definitely female’, then ‘about five years into it the gay guys sort of took over’. The female influence in the early years kept the festival true to the initial country specifications, and retained a focus on ‘being community minded [and] being family centric’. After a number of years, a number of gay men had joined the committee and influenced a shift in the direction of the festival. Leanne recognises, ‘having been in business in many ways themselves, they took it to the next level ... they really brought that more commercial aspect’. Many of the early committee members agreed that the festival needed to grow in that way.

Leanne left the committee as this new era of committee members stepped up. Moving back to Melbourne, she remains an avid supporter of the festival attending as often as she can. Reflecting on her time involved with the establishment of ChillOut, Leanne says:

I think whenever you get involved in any sort of voluntary work for any community it has a personal benefit to it. I'm a bit of a planner and a scheduler so when it comes to getting involved in activities like that, it was right up my alley to get involved and do the planning, the scheduling, and organising, getting people to do what we needed done, directing traffic so to speak. But I got a lot of satisfaction out of that. It was also my first foray into doing anything within the LGBTI community and that to me is something that I've taken with me as something that I've achieved. I'm very proud of the fact that I was able to provide some inputs to the community, [and gained] a lot of personal satisfaction out of that.

All quotes taken from an interview with Leanne Spain, 11 January 2018.