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Getting back on stage


Getting back on stage

As the Australian performing arts and music industries continue their slow recovery from the effects of COVID, Eumundi local Katie Noonan is doing all she can to reconnect the community through music, with the second annual Sunshine Sounds Festival.

The past two years have pathed a rocky road for the arts sector. Deemed non-essential, the industry – like many others – took a substantial hit during the pandemic.

The number of gigs cancelled is in the vicinity of 374,000, while arts and recreation industry employees’ work hours decreased by 21 per cent between the March and June quarters of 2022. This compares with the all-industry average of five per cent.

The Parliament of Australia’s The Impact of COVID-19 report also revealed that it was the second hardest hit industry with regard to job loss, and its recovery has been deemed the slowest.

Leading arts and culture think tank A New Approach (ANA) predicts, “It could be years before this industry division fully recovers, due to the public’s discomfort with being in shared spaces like live performance venues. Ongoing social distancing requirements and the risk of events and venues being shut down is likely to continue undermining both consumer and investor confidence in the sector.”

Sadly, the cost to the nation has been more than a financial one, according to Sunshine Coast-based musician Katie Noonan.

The five-time Aria Award-winning artist believes the arts are essential to “being human” and denying people access to performance affects their wellbeing and mental health.

“Music is the great connector, the great equaliser, the greatest maker of friends,” she tells My Weekly Preview.

“I honestly believe there is nothing more powerful than music in order to bring us together and realise our commonality rather than our difference.

“I believe music is the greatest tool for our collective wellbeing and my wish is to do what I can to bring the magic of music to young people’s lives and in particular people in regional Australia.

“Having lived regionally for almost 15 years, I know the innate power of the arts in our communities and am passionate about ensuring world-quality programs are not just presented in our major cities.”

This is exactly what Ms Noonan has ensured with the creation of the Sunshine Sounds Festival.

Katie Noonan (with brother Tyrone)

To be staged at the Eumundi Showgrounds on July 29 and 30, the second annual family-friendly festival also marks a special occasion for Katie and her brother Tyrone Noonan who are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their former band george’s debut album, the award-winning Polyserena.

“It is very special to be back making music with my big bro Tyrone and my son Dexter. Our band started in the lounge room of my uni share house in early 1996 in Brisbane with two sets of siblings jamming together. My bro had just returned from living in Europe and I had just started uni,” Ms Noonan says.

“I was 18, so only a little older than Dexter is now. Twenty-six years later to be celebrating our debut album with my 17-year-old-son and two wonderful young musicians – Brandon Mamata on guitars and Steele Chabau on bass – feels like a wonderful full circle moment with multiple generations sharing music together.

“This album was the soundtrack of me becoming a woman and trying to find my place in the world. It’s funny how songs morph with time and they come to mean something different.

“That young Katie still has a lot to teach me and I look forward to singing her words in this very special concert with my big bro and my first-born son.”

Sunshine Sounds features a varied line-up including ARIA Award-winning performer Clare Bowditch and band, Asha Jefferies, Lyndon Davis and the Gubbi Gubbi Dancers, Andrea Kirwin, Band of Frequencies and more.

Presented by Ms Noonan’s production company, Kin Music, the festival centres on community and connection.

“Sunshine Sounds is a truly special little festival that really brings people together,” she says. “There’s a real sense of community connection, welcoming music lovers, and indeed performers, of all ages and stages.

“A lot of festivals are 18-plus or focused on heaving drinking and partying, whereas our festival is a welcoming space for all to come and have a great time together across multiple generations.”

Don’t miss it!

Fancy yourself a bit of a star? Or maybe you just enjoy belting out a tune in the shower.

Either way, the Sunshine Sounds Festival community choir could be just the event for you.

Festival-goers are invited to join together at 9.45pm on Saturday, July 30 in a performance of Midnight Oil’s chart topper The Dead Heart to close out the festival.

The choir will be accompanied by Band of Frequencies and young vocalists from Eumundi School of Rock.

Participation is open to anyone of any age and singing ability. Pre-festival choir rehearsals will be held in the Eumundi CWA Hall on July 10, 17 and 24 for those keen to get involved, but rehearsals aren’t mandatory.

For more information, including information on how to register, visit



Held at the Eumundi Showgrounds on Black Stump Road, the Sunshine Sounds gates open at 4.30pm on Friday, and 11am on Saturday with live performances until 10pm each day.

The event is supported by The Imperial Hotel and Eumundi Brewery, and there will be plenty of local food and drinks available.

Sunshine Sounds is a glass-free and plastic-free event, so be sure to take along your own bottle for free water refills.

Daily and two-day ticket options are available for youth (10 years and over) and adults through oztix. Kids under 10 are free.

Friday tickets are priced at $43.90 for adults and $22.95 for youth. Saturday tickets are $85.70 for adults and $43.90 for youth.

An adult weekend pass is $106.10 and $55.10 for youth.

For more festival information, including tickets, visit



Katie Noonan says a key element of the 2022 festival is the inclusion of Eumundi School of Rock (ESOR) in the program.

Founded seven years ago by the songstress, the school offers free scholarships to up-and-coming singers aged from eight to 17 years. To date, 150 scholarships have been gifted.

Four ESOR bands will take to the stage on Friday evening, performing alongside celebrated Australian artist and You Am I frontman Tim Rogers.

“Three of our brilliant past students – Lochie Kapper on guitar, Niamh Stevens on bass and Dexter Hurren on drums – will be backing Tim himself, and to close the concert, all the 2022 rockers will rock out in an epic 26-piece band with Tim,” Ms Noonan says.

School alum Layla Barnett and performer Zara also feature on the program.

No stranger to the spotlight, 13-year-old First Nations singer Layla has shared the stage with Ms Noonan, and in April she performed a duet with Uncle Archie Roach at the National Folk Festival in Canberra.

“Before I auditioned for ESOR [in 2020], I had never had a singing lesson; I just used to sing songs around the house,” she says.

“I entered my school talent show and I performed Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. I got first place, much to my surprise. That made me want to try to get some professional singing lessons.

“I knew that Katie Noonan ran the ESOR, and she was my idol so I auditioned just for the experience not expecting to get in. ESOR was a great place to start as I met amazing local music teachers. They have all been influential to my music.”

Festival-goers will have the opportunity to hear Layla’s original work firsthand.

“I really like song-writing because I get to write from personal experiences, and I get to write from my own perspective. Expressing things through song is sometimes easier than talking about things and that’s why I love it.”


The artists

Feature artist: Clare Bowditch

Musician, broadcaster, sometimes actor, speaker, entrepreneur and bestselling author Clare Bowditch has won the coveted ARIA award for Best Female, the Rolling Stone Woman of the Year Award for her contribution to Australian culture, and has been nominated for a Logie Award for her role as Rosanna in television hit Offspring.

Ms Bowditch has toured and performed at every festival, venue and truck-stop Australia has to offer and played with the likes of Leonard Cohen, Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Gotye and John Butler.

Also playing at the festival:

  • Katie and Tyrone Noonan
  • Tim Rogers
  • Asha Jefferies
  • Hat Fitz and Cara
  • Deline Briscoe
  • JaZZella
  • Layla Barnett
  • Zara
  • Lyndon Davis and the Gubbi Gubbi Dancers
  • Andrea Kirwin and the Yama-Nui Social Club
  • Band of Frequencies


Candice's passion for journalism led her to the Sunshine Coast 12 years ago where she has worked across multiple media and communication platforms. An avid traveller (she lists Paris, Venice and Vietnam as her faves), this mum of one loves meeting with people from all walks of life and finds inspiration within their stories. Candice joined the team in 2014 and is MWP's editor.

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