Three mums launch Melbourne's first children's festival

Melbourne is packed with amazing international, cultural, and music events, but three mums noticed one glaring gap in the city's culture scene - there was no inner-city music festival designed especially for kids. This inspired Jo Bertrand to join forces with Jane Calvert and Zoe Shurgold to create Playfest - a two day music festival for kids.

While Jane and Zoe were old high school friends, it took Jo, who Zoe met in London, to make the Playfest idea a reality. "I had been involved in setting up Lollibop and Camp Bestival in the UK and couldn't believe something like that hadn't taken off in Melbourne yet," shares Jo.

But before there was Playfest, there was Pozible. One campaign set up by the three mums to fund their dream of a kid's music festival. "We needed the Pozible campaign funds to pay the deposit on the venue and get some headline artists booked in," says Jo.

Zoe (far left) with her two children Dylan and Miles; Jo with her kids Leo and Ivy; and Jane with Milla and Scarlet.
Zoe (far left) with her two children Dylan and Miles; Jo with her kids Leo and Ivy; and Jane with Milla and Scarlet. Photo: Supplied

"It's an incredibly hard thing to get financial support for a first year, untested event," says Jane. "The Pozible campaign was terrifying, but exhilarating. They kept telling us the two keys to a successful campaign were having a strong database and being a master of social media. We had no database and twelve months ago I wasn't even on Facebook – I'd never used it!"

For Zoe, the Pozible campaign was really the point of no return. "Pozible started out as being an extra revenue stream on top of all the sponsorship funds we naively assumed would come our way. As the campaign went on, we realized it was really make or break. We put so much of our heart and time into the campaign and it was definitely not a case of sitting back and watching the money roll in, it was a daily routine of what do we do next to keep people interested. It was intense."

As one of the most successful crowd funding campaigns for a children's event in Pozible's history, Playfest is well on the path to being a sensational event. With three different stages for music, Readings Storytime zone, Big Top cabaret, Ikea Little Play zone, Yamaha Music corner, BrickFEST area for kids with special needs, Variety Live Laugh and Learn workshops, and St. Ali Junior Silent disco, these three mums may have just changed the landscape of children's entertainment.

Em Rusciano and Alex Papps with Zoe, Jo, Jane and their kids.
Em Rusciano and Alex Papps with Zoe, Jo, Jane and their kids. Photo: Supplied

"I oscillate between terror and exhilaration daily," shares Jane. "I have never taken a risk of this size in my life and with two daughters aged one and four some could argue that it might not be the best time to do it. But when is? Once you start a family you're off on a ride that's going to keep going regardless. You either let it take you where all the competing demands drag you or you make an effort to take the steering wheel. I have learnt more in this past year than I've learnt in the last twenty. Whereas right now I have never been more exhausted – for most of the year I have never felt more alive."

After so much hard work, Zoe is ready to rock out at Playfest. "Apart from being the craziest busiest most nuts time in my life, no understatement, I am ready to enjoy the fruits of our labour. We created this event because it is the sort of thing we want to do with our kids, there was nothing like it in Melbourne and now there is. We had the ultimate inspiration and drive – our kids. Mummy Power!"

The lessons from this incredible adventure will be long lasting. "Regardless of what happens with this event I want my girls to grow up knowing they should always have the courage to give things they believe in a go and not to die wondering," reflects Jane.

Zoe echoes with "it is true what they say, once you've conquered motherhood, you can do anything. I do hope my boys will appreciate this when they are grown up and I will be encouraging them to have the confidence to always strive for their dreams."

Three festival-loving mums, with six kids under the age of five between them, and one Pozible campaign have proven that boundaries are there to be broken. Stereotypes are there to be dissolved and dreams can become reality.

Playfest will be at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl November 21 and 22. Find out more at