Leaps and Bounds is heating up your winter for ten music-packed days

“Music is such an accessible art form for people…being able to break down some of those walls and barriers allows us to promote the wellbeing of our general community.”

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Naomi Lee Beveridge

As Leaps and Bounds soars into its sixth year of operation, the weather may be cold, but the lineup is hotly anticipated. Besides being downright spectacular, with the likes of Cosmo’s Midnight, Cable Ties, and Benny Walker appearing upon a huge list of names that will take part in a number of events, the lineup is notable for its diversity.
Indigenous Australians, women, and members of the LGBTQI+ community are at the forefront, commanding attention in a domain they’ve so often experienced less than a positive welcome within. “The diversity on our bill this year is representative of the talent that exists within the City of Yarra,” Councillor Nguyen, Mayor of the City of Yarra says.
“Music is such an accessible art form for people, and particularly when it comes to such important issues that we’re facing at the moment, being able to break down some of those walls and barriers allows us to promote the wellbeing of our general community,” he says.
The ten-day festival focuses on bringing together members of the community of Yarra and beyond, at a time of year they may not otherwise venture out. It was originally conceived as a way for Yarra City Council to support the venues and artists within their boundaries during the cold, winter months.
“We know that within the music industry, and the festival scene, there are a lot of festivals and events that happen towards the warmer months of the year. But one of the things that we lack is an event for the cooler months,” Councillor Nguyen says.
But as time has gone, it has grown, beyond what was ever originally expected. And it’s done so with ease. “[Leaps and Bounds] has grown really organically. Venues are involved in the planning. They’re leveraging off each other, and in terms of events, artists, and branding, it’s such a success. This success has allowed it to become self-sustaining, and continue on into the future,” Councillor Nguyen says.
“What’s great about the music industry is that it’s really community focussed. It’s about embracing the diversity we have, about embracing things that make our city great, and allowing the talent within our city to explore so many of the great things we have go on within our boundaries.”
With such a broad reach within a hugely multicultural and vibrant city, it’s no wonder the festival boasts such diversity. Councillor Nguyen is proud of the opportunity to engage and further unite the community that this diversity enables.
“Diversity allows our communities to have better access to all parts of the community – which is what's really great about Leaps and Bounds. It allows people to explore different artists, and to engage with them. It’s important for us to continue to develop that, and promote that diversity, and ensure that our community gets along,” he says.
An important part of Leaps and Bounds, and one of the best opportunities it provides to learn and engage, is Smith Street Dreaming. Featuring a myriad of Indigenous arts, music and culture, the free, annual event is a celebration of the many mobs that make up Aboriginal Australia, all in a place of great significance to the community.
The streets of Yarra City are home to several different Aboriginal organisations, including Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the Melbourne Aboriginal Youth Sport & Recreation centre, and this is no coincidence.
“Collingwood and Fitzroy has always been the heart of Aboriginal and Indigenous activism. That comes from the ‘60s and ‘70s, when a number of the communities were leaving the missions that existed within Victoria, and finding connections and community. To this day [Yarra City] remains the heartland of that support,” Councillor Nguyen says.
Councillor Nguyen is particularly well-versed in Indigenous rights and history within his community and council. He serves as the  Executive Officer of Tarwirri, a membership body for Indigenous law students and lawyers, that works to promote awareness of legal and policy issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Victoria.
“What Smith Street Dreaming does is showcase and promote the amazing things that have happened on that land for tens of thousands of years. It’s about taking people on a journey, and sharing the experiences of our Indigenous community with our wider community,” Councillor Nguyen says.
But for that wider community, diversity means nothing if it’s not accessible. Ten percent of Yarra City’s community is home to public housing residents, Councillor Nguyen says. As such, the council has ensured that much of the festival is completely free of charge, with many events open to families of all ages.
“We know that unfortunately for some people in our communities, finances are an issue. And we want to have things that we do in the City of Yarra accessible to everyone,” he says.
There are changes to come for future iterations of the festival. To become even more inclusive, Councillor Nguyen has worked extensively with disability advisory teams and venues to ensure accessibility for all abilities. And as we look forward to future winters filled with chilly, music-filled evenings, Councillor Nguyen assures the music-loving populous that there’s only better things to come.
“Our venues within the City of Yarra have always had that inclusivity and diversity with what they’re trying to achieve. But more and more, the community is coming along on that journey,” he says.
“We have such talent within our community, such talent within our walls, such amazing people and bands and musicians that are able to showcase their acts. For me, it's hoping to become bigger and better, and utilising more of our venues and what we have here.”

Leaps and Bounds Music Festival will take place in venues and locations throughout City of Yarra from Friday July 13 until Sunday July 22.