A Sunbury Day Out…

Crowd at Sunbury Festival 1972. Photographer unknown. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection

While the sun’s still shining come in and see our new exhibition, ‘A Sunbury Day Out’ – an exhibition celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the legendary Sunbury Music Festival – with a nod to the 20th Anniversary of the Big Day Out.

Proof for 'How To Get There' advertisement. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection


Promoted as ‘Bigger than Big’, the original Sunbury Music Festival, held over the Australia Day long weekend in 1972, attracted thousands of festival goers from around the country – from laid back hippies to hard core rock ‘n’ roll fans. An annual festival from 1972-1975, Sunbury has iconic status in the history of Australian music and was perhaps the closest thing we had to an Australian Woodstock als well as a spiritual precursor to the Big Day Out.

Much of the material on display has been drawn for the Performing Arts Collection’s  Sunbury Music Festival Collection which evokes the spirit of this significant event through a comprehensive range of material including colour photographs, slides, planning documents, correspondence, payment schedules, design layouts and merchandise. The collection was donated to the Performing Arts Collection festival organiser, John Fowler in 1993 and since that time has become one of our most highly accessed collections. Come in and find out why…

A Sunbury Day Out
St Kilda Rd Foyer Gallery
25 February – 27 May, 2012

Festival Giants

It’s a massive weekend for music, as we celebrate 20 years of the Big Day Out and remember the Sunbury Music Festival on its 40th anniversary.

Now an institution in the Australian music calendar, the Big Day Out began in 1992 as a Sydney-only show featuring the Violent Femmes and Nirvana at the Hordern Pavilion. The day was a hit, and since 1994 the Big Day Out has travelled annually throughout Australia and to New Zealand, eventually reaching the 100 shows milestone in 2010.

Big Day Out 1996
The Big Day Out, Melbourne Showgrounds, 28 January 1996. Photograph by Shellie Tonkin. Purchased, 1996, Performing Arts Collection.

Over the last 20 years, the Big Day Out has hosted some of the biggest names in rock, including Metallica, Bjork, the Ramones, Tool and the Beastie Boys. The festival has also been a platform for many Australian artists such as Silverchair, Powderfinger, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Nick Cave, the Big Day Out, 1996
Nick Cave at the Big Day Out, Melbourne Showgrounds, 28 January 1996. Photograph by Shellie Tonkin. Purchased, 1996, Performing Arts Collection.

This weekend also marks the 40th anniversary of the Sunbury Music Festival, staged over the Australia Day long weekend from 1972-1975. Sunbury became one of Australia’s most well known music festivals and is often compared to the Woodstock Festival in the United States (1969). For three days the audience, numbering around 40,000 each year, experienced the heady mixture of rock, blues, soul and R&B music, while living communally and camping outdoors. The festival eventually folded in 1975 due to financial losses incurred when the concert was rained out.