Brunswick Music Festival is the cornerstone of Melbourne’s eclectic music scene

Brunswick Music Festival is the cornerstone of Melbourne’s eclectic music scene

Emily Ulman - photo by Simon Fazio
Words by Greta Brereton

Programmer extraordinaire Emily Ulman has curated another stellar lineup for the 2020 Brunswick Music Festival.

Celebrating all things 3056, the event spans Brunswick’s hotspots and hidden gems, all bursting with tasty local and international talent. There’s something for everyone no matter your palate, with Ajak Kwai’s global grooves, moving melodies from Seeker Lover Keeper, the Cretan classics of Xylouris White and Sunfruit’s sumptuous sounds.

Whether it’s a boogie at the Sydney Road Street Party or a pub crawl for Venues 3056, make the journey north and discover the diversity, culture and music that Brunswick has to offer.

The annual Brunswick Music Festival is returning to the northside suburb next month, celebrating the local community and the musical talent it harbours.

If last year’s event is anything to go off, then the 2020 instalment is bound to be a cracker. The program boasts a tantalising lineup of artists like Kevin Morby, Alex Cameron, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Ziggy Ramo, MOD CON, Xylouris White and heaps more, to keep you entertained over the festival period.

Programmer Emily Ulman is at the helm once again, hoping this year’s BMF will be a level up from the one before. It’ll be hard to top the success of the 2019 event, but Ulman says it’s been a process of minor tweaks rather than major changes.

“I guess it’s a more refined program this year,” she says. “It was just a matter of doing the best parts and solidifying and building on what we’d [previously] achieved.”

As always, BMF is keeping community at the forefront of its focus, showcasing venues around the suburb and local talent that might not otherwise have a platform. There’ll be performances from established Australian and international musicians as well, but the real core value of BMF is to support the community.

“Because we’re so spoilt and lucky and talented, it just feels really obvious to focus on our local talent,” explains Ulman. “It’s really a mixture of just wanting to provide and be as reflective of the community as possible.”

One BMF success story is that of glittering queer pop singer Elizabeth, who performed in the Mechanics Institute space last year.

“This year she’s come back and she’s outgrown the Mechanics well and truly,” says Ulman.

“Being able to nurture up-and-coming artists in a smaller space and then knowing full well that they’ll outgrow that space, and then being able to invite her back to launch her album in Estonian House, just feels really like the essence of community.”

Ulman and the BMF team also open the doors to expressions of interest early into the programming process, so people in the area can have their say on what they’d like to see. This year, it’s resulted in the Brunswick Music Feastival, an event which features bands with food related names – think groups like Baked Beans, Crepes and Sunfruits.

“It’s also really important to me just to listen to the community,” says Ulman. “It’s not the Emily Ulman program – it’s a festival for the community, by the community.”

Then there’s the inclusivity factor, which is imperative for a festival that takes place in a suburb with such a diverse demographic. Ulman always invites female musicians and musicians of colour along to perform, as well as ensuring there’s a mix of free events, venues with disability access and shows with Auslan interpreters. This year’s Auslan interpreted show with Seeker Lover Keeper goes beyond what BMF have done in the past, partnering up with Expression Australia for the performance. 

“The really cool thing about Expression Australia is that they’re providing someone to Auslan interpret the shows, but a deaf interpreter,” Ulman explains. “They’ll get the setlist ahead of time so they obviously feel the vibrations, and they can interpret it from their own experience.

“I think that’s a really special and really meaningful way of engaging and including our deaf community.”

Ulman’s thoughtful approach to programming means she’s curated a selection of events that really give something back to the community, and to the performer. It’s tough whittling down such a vast and vibrant pool of musicians to a select few, but she has nothing but praise for her role, and gratitude for the work she gets to do.

“I might come to a point where I’ve had enough, but for the moment I definitely want to stick around,” she says. “I love the festival, and I love Brunswick.”

Brunswick Music Festival runs from Monday March 9 to Sunday March 22. Head to to check out the full program.