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Getting to know…Lisa Barbagallo of Dress Up Attack! Festival

Dress Up Attack! is a music and arts festival for children and grown-ups which offers children the unique experience of a music festival programmed to engage young people.

Tell me about yourself
I moved to Sydney from QLD in the ‘90’s. It was the glory days of music festivals, so I guess its part of my make up now. I was still at uni and moved here to complete a secondment at Summersault Festival. I’ve worked in the music industry since then – I can’t shake it J. It’s been varied though – across record labels, music licensing, artist relations, events and music copyright.
After we had our first child, my partner’s band toured a lot (timing!) and we found ourselves travelling the world in the weird way that is musicians touring – with kids in tow. I guess it was a forced combination of those worlds that led to the seeds for Dress Up Attack!
What is Dress Up Attack? And how did you come up with the name?
It’s a daytime festival that is similar to what the parents may have been to in the past – it’s part indoor/part outdoor – great music, food, costumes, people generally being a bit crazy – and a feel of excitement in the air. It’s a place where you’ll run into friends that you haven’t seen for a while. It’s the community of music loving, like-minded parents.
It’s a small thing – but the site is visibly fenced in. If your child wanders off (like mine do) they can’t go far. And I think that adds to the relaxed feel. We like to create a comfortable environment for the kids and their carers.
There is lots of messy and creative play. The ticket prices covers everything except food and drink. We have an Awesome People Reading Books area as well as a Dad Joke Bar. There’s a jumping castle, live bands, heaps of workshops, face painting and excellent, excellent DJ’s.
The Dress Up Attack! name is courtesy of my, at-the-time, 3 year old. The kids really loved dressing up and then fighting with each other (!). One day he asked if they could play the dress up attack game. I had been making lists and lists of really daggy names and once he said that I absolutely knew that was the name for the festival. It was perfect as kids love dressing up and are very much encouraged to and sometimes even families dress up all together. I love it!
It looks epically fun! How did the concept come about?
Well it started as bands that kids and adults can enjoy together – but it just keeps growing and we find all these awesome things to add to the festival. Paint What You Hear is one of those.
The concept – I really was just looking for something that the whole family could enjoy together. I’d been attending and/or working at Homebake for a couple of consecutive years and noticed that there was an increase in the amount of people bringing their kids, which seemed to be a natural progression. I thought it would be fun to have a dedicated festival for these guys.
I kept on talking about it and insisting someone should do it. I dragged some friends in – Mel and Loren then others (who are hilariously over qualified for this gig) joined us. We’re really lucky that we know most of the bands that play and have managed to convince/ blackmail them to be a part of the festival.
After the first one we wanted to do another to make it even better. That’s what keeps us going. Everything on-site is really considered and we try to push boundaries every year in what we offer. It’s a tough space; creative play, punk bands etc vs. helicopter parenting but we’re so lucky in the Inner West because its just heaps of people like us.
Venue and lineup for 2016?
We are at the Portuguese Club in Marrickville again as it is a pretty great venue for us. There is a grassy area and a big hall for our indoor space.
This year we’re stoked to have The Grates and Custard, who are now mostly parents and their music is really suited for families. We have Bunny Racket too – Andy co-wrote the album with a Brant Bjork of Kyuss so there is quite a bit of stoner rock influence there. (The band on the day includes members from The Vines and Grinspoon – they’re Dads too). We then have 2 local artists – Angie Who, Angie wrote her album Littlefolk for (and around) her two young children, it’s funny and gentle country-folk. And Benny Time, Ben’s awesome – he worked in childcare and is a musician. His show is super fun and interactive.
How did you get so many amazing bands to commit?
I don’t know – it’s actually amazing. All of the bands that have played have understood the ethos of the festival so we’re super lucky there is still nice people out there that understand our budget limitations.
How many people have attended in previous years and how many are you expecting this year?
We try to keep the festival at less than 1,200 people because we like the close feel of the community connections.
What is the hardest part of organising the event?
Probably because it is the 3 of us and Dress Up Attack! is always something we do along with our current jobs and families, it can be hard to all talk at the same time. It’s the untraditional places we work from as we are all mums and try to snatch time for Dress Up Attack! when we can. Usually it is one of us whispering because a baby is asleep or someone else might be in a schoolyard. But we still manage to pull this together every year.
Why are you passionate about promoting music with kids and families?
I’m passionate about a lot of things including the creative play and the quality of music and workshops at our festival. There is lots of unnecessary sub-standard children’s entertainment out there. The joy that you get of everyone enjoying the same moment is priceless. To see parents with kids on their shoulders or cradling their babies whilst enjoying good music is just the best.
Being a mum, what is the biggest challenge you have overcome with parenting?
Not many of our friends had kids when we had our first child, but we incorporated our kids into our life rather than the other way around. I love that we did that and he still toured with the band and I continued working. It frustrates me when parents say they can’t do certain things because of their kids.
Best aspect of being a mum?
Impossible question J I do love that as the boys get older they become really good company. It’s fun to go places with them and talk about things, they have valid opinions, and the tantrums aren’t anywhere near as unreasonable as when they’re little.
Favourite source of inspiration for the festival?
Real life.
Honestly – entertaining kids doesn’t need to be that hard. Often it’s the simple things that are the best. Last year we had a sea of cardboard boxes with Iron Ink Art Club facilitating the build. Kids stayed there for hours and some parents were like ‘cardboard boxes – who knew?’
I am listening to…
Juno (film) soundtrack – it makes me cry in an enjoyable way. And even though Kimya had to cancel her tour and she’s no longer playing this year’s Dress Up Attack! – I still love her.
Best or favourite spots in Sydney’s Inner West?
Our Community Garden and of course, Dress Up Attack!
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