Heart of St Kilda Concert

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Where the community and arts come together in one huge night to celebrate St Kilda and the Mission

By Sara Harrington, Sacred Heart Mission Events Coordinator

For the ninth year in a row, our events team is planning for our big, annual community celebration – the Heart of St Kilda concert.

This night of music and comedy attracts Australia’s finest musicians and comedians to the Palais Theatre stage, who all donate their time and talents to raise money for our Meals Program. Last year we raised a whopping $79,000, funding 20,000 three-course hot and hearty meals served in our St Kilda dining hall for people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage.

The concert is the brainchild of four music industry salwarts: Brian Nankervis, Larry Ponting, Wal Bishop OAM and Palais Theatre CEO Neil Croker, who pool their skills and experience and draw upon their extensive contacts to curate and produce this once-a-year variety show.

As this is his last year of running the Palais Theatre, we thought it was fitting to pay tribute to Neil Croker who has been a dear friend to the Mission for many years. Neil and his team hadn’t been managing the iconic venue for long when it hosted the first Heart of St Kilda Concert in 2008. Over the years the relationship between Neil, the Palais Theatre and the Mission has grown. In 2014, the Palais Theatre became the home of another of our fundraising events, Dine with Heart, which sees the stage transformed into a fine dining venue, featuring Melbourne’s top chefs who prepare four delicious courses in a mobile kitchen set-up in the car park out the back of the theatre.

Neil Croker’s contribution to Sacred Heart Mission goes well beyond the use of the space. There’s support with publicity, marketing and so much more. It’s hard to quantify the enormity of such a gift, but at the Mission, we know Neil is worth his weight in gold.

Indeed his 30 year track record in entertainment industry management is luminous. He was AC/DC’s tour manager for two decades and managed tours for acts such as Dire Straits, Michael Jackson and Carole King. He was also responsible for the production of merchandise at the Barcelona Olympics and numerous theatre productions.

The Palais opened as a cinema in 1927, and has been an entertainment institution ever since. The Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison and Johnny O’Keefe have rocked it. Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Joan Sutherland have electrified it. By the time Neil became CEO of Palais Theatre Management in 2007, he says it had become run down.

“It was in poor shape and under-utilised. The year before we took over it had about 22 concerts on each year and 35,000 people came along. These days we do about 120 concerts a year and have 300,000 people come through.”

Part of that reinvention has been to make sure the Palais Theatre is not just a St Kilda landmark but part of the St Kilda community. It made perfect sense to link up with Sacred Heart Mission. The Palais Theatre is now rated Australia’s no.1 theatre concert venue and among the best in the world.

“It was very obvious to me very quickly that Sacred Heart Mission does an amazing job in St Kilda, not only for people from St Kilda, but for all people in need. It was an ideal organisation to work with. The arts is very much about a fair go for all, a voice for all, supporting people in their freedom to live their life as they need to live it, want to live it. And that flows through from the artists we represent on stage, to our own management philosophy.  That aligns clearly with the work that Sacred Heart Mission does as well,” said Neil.

This year’s Heart of St Kilda Concert on Tuesday 6 September promises to be another unique, celebratory night of entertainment for the whole family, featuring a wide variety of high profile and up and coming artists, including: Paul Dempsey, Red Symons, Jimeoin,

The Umbilical Brothers, Ella Hooper, Ross Wilson, Olympia, Shane Howard, Russell Morris,

Kutcha Edwards, Judith Lucy, Deborah Conway with Clare Bowditch, Maddy and Memphis Kelly, Jeff Green, The Rebelles, The Meltdown, Melbourne Tap and Rebecca Barnard & Billy Miller with the Caravan Choir. The MC for the evening will be Brian Nankervis.

Tickets are on sale now via Ticketmaster: 136 100 or www.ticketmaster.com.au. A-Reserve $99.00; B-Reserve $79.00. All proceeds support Sacred Heart Mission.

We’d love to see you there!

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