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The History of the Music Victoria Awards

By Lyndelle Wilkinson (PBS Broadcaster and Music Victoria Awards co-host), with assistance from Marty Boulton (The Age)

What started as a celebration for the 21st birthday of the EG, has resulted in where we find ourselves in 2020. With a whole lot of extraordinary in the middle. There is a history here that we would like to share.

Back in 2006 Paddy Donovan wanted to celebrate The Age’s much loved music bible, the Entertainment Guide – EG. He had another idea too – to create a public vote to honour the best music and artists of those years and award them on the night.

Droves turned up – it was a concert and a party but with awards. And ‘wha-la’, recognising and celebrating music in this great city became an annual event. It was a huge success.

I first met Paddy when he wandered into PBS FM at 8am to promote one of the early award nights at The Prince Bandroom, on my radio show. He had a huge announcement to share. Bonnie Tyler was to perform and it’s here when I learned the 'power of Paddy', as he handed me a CD and said ‘here, it’s a Bonnie Tyler track to play, it’ll go off’ and so I simply nodded and played it. Later that night, I witnessed Bonnie Tyler bursting onto the stage singing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ backed by the mighty EG All-Stars and it blew everyone away – I know! Paddy knew. That’s how it works. That moment for Paddy would sit up there as one of his favourite music memories of all time

Those early, rollicking awards nights at the Prince were legendary, one of the best was the year he convinced the Painters and Dockers to get back together – they were celebrated and inducted into the Hall of Fame. Like the year Nirvana played nearby at the Palais - the concert that everyone says they were at – this was one of those nights. Paddy helped put the Dockers back together and they are still going today.

There were some extraordinary names being recognised along the way – fantastic musicians like Paul Kelly, Kim Salmon, Weddings Parties Anything and Wagons. Hall of Fame inductions like the late, great Steven Walker. Great contributors to our local music scene.

Six years on from the first awards night, Paddy left The Age - he became the first CEO of Music Victoria - a job he was made for. It’s a role he has embodied for the past 10 years.

In 2012 & 2013 The Age's Jo Roberts, Marty Boulton along with 2020's Hall of Fame inductee Mary Mihelakos, carried the flame for the awards, much to the delight of Melbourne’s music loving punters. By then it had become part of the city’s music calendar.

Once Music Victoria got off the ground - The Age partnered up with Music Victoria to take the awards to the next level - and to return them to the father of the awards - Paddy Donovan - from which time - they went from strength to strength, moving to 170 Russell and expanding recognition to more artists.

This period ushered in a terrific innovation - the creation of the Genre Awards, which spread the spotlight to even more Victorians artists - and til this day they are a real and important feature of the awards.

In 2019, The Age stepped away as a partner and the big event continued as the Music Victoria Awards, co-presented by Triple R 102.7FM and PBS 106.7FM.

Superstar favourites of the awards - like Courtney Barnett, The Drones, Paul Kelly and Adalita continue to attend, support and perform at the awards – which speaks to the place that the awards now hold in our Victorian music community.

In more recent years - at our now prestigious home for the awards, The Melbourne Recital Centre, the awards have grown in stature – The Teskey Brothers, Baker Boy, Sampa the Great and Mildlife are just some of the acts to join the stage and carry home awards.

Back in 2015, for the 10th annual awards, Paddy’s marvelous mind stepped it up a notch with a special celebration at the Palace, hosting a lunch for all of the Hall of Fame inductees, right on the stage of magnificent old venue - followed soon after by a concert by some of the greats - John Farnham, Archie Roach, The Seekers - all devised and agreed to on a handshake with Glen Wheatley and the manager at The Palais at the time. Hosted by Brian Nankervis – the night was a huge success.

Over the years the Hall of Fame has welcomed Molly Meldrum, Chrissy Amphlett, Vika and Linda, Renee Geyer and Daddy Cool, who like Painters and Dockers - Paddy coerced back onto the stage. So after 25 years they reformed for the event - with what turned out to be, the last ever, unforgettable live performance of Daddy Cool. The queues that night went around the corner.

In another memorable year - Paddy was determined to fit the entire Melbourne Ska Orchestra – that’s 30 plus performers - on stage at 170 Russell with an Awards event that went for 7+hours. It went off! There are no obstacles with Paddy and his determination to celebrate and create memories. He is inclusive, well-loved and respected and humble. There are so many stories, but alas not enough time to relay them all.

The sponsorship for these awards which Paddy has been able to secure to fund these awards has been monumental, he started from scratch and after all of these years the tally of prize money going directly to artists exceeds $120,000. It's been a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and grit, but these awards are now in a commanding position.

Along the way - the awards team has expanded, changed and brought together talented and passionate people, all led by Paddy. Bek Duke, Belinda Collins, Chloe Turner, Karen Conrad, Sarah Guppy and Emily Ulman are among those who have played significant roles. More recently, they have been in the very capable hands of Laura Imbruglia these past 2 years, she and her team have confidently taken the reins and they are in incredibly safe hands moving forward.

Thanks to Paddy, these awards have formed lifelong friends and created positive change and impact to our state and our amazing and valuable music scene. And for that we could never thank him enough. He parted ways with Music Victoria just last month after 10 years of steering the ship, we could not let an opportunity pass. So Paddy Donovan. Please take a stand and take a bow.