3066 Sarah Blaby – Sponsorship & Promotions Manager, 3PBS Radio

Sarah at home, Melbourne 3066
Sarah at home, Melbourne 3066

Ever curious about the sound of those who work in sound, listening to Sarah while she told her tales was worth the trip across town. Her voice is at once melodic and husky, and often punctuated with a light girlish laugh. The combination packs a playful yet earnest punch, and makes for easy listening.

When I met her at her Collingwood home she, and her partner Zec, had just moved north from St. Kilda (“the other side of the river”) and were in the throes of getting settled. Happy to be closer to her place of work, Melbourne’s community radio station 3PBS, she also spoke fondly of missing St. Kilda’s beaches and beach-walks with her dog.

The proverb “good things come in small packages” came to mind as we shared a drink. Open-hearted and committed to Melbourne’s music scene, the pint-sized dynamo told TENANT about the childhood trip to her grandfather’s UK hotel that switched on a music gene.

Thanks for speaking to TENANT, Sarah. So you have just moved here from St. Kilda, and you mentioned that this is the first time you have lived in Collingwood. Are you are Melbourne girl?

Yes, I am. I was born and bred East-side. I have lived North-side before, just not Collingwood proper and not for a number of years.

Like all big cities, Melbourne has a variety of pockets. Do you have a favourite Melbourne postcode – or part thereof?

Central 3182. I love St Kilda – even though its got so many issues. At the end of the day the views, the space and the green just win me over. And the freaks keep it interesting!

St. Kilda hey… Do you feel like you have to speak its name in hushed tones over here amongst the north-side vs. south-side hipster-spawned competition?

(Laughter) Yeah I know what you mean. But the easiest way to subvert competition is to stay the hell out of it. There are great things going on – on both sides of town.

Agreed. I have a long history with St. Kilda – I went to primary and high school there. The summertime crowds and the backpackers are a grind but the community is still really strong plus the water views and the old grand architecture remain intoxicating. What are you enjoying by way of shops or amenities in your new digs?

I am still getting used to this area right now, and could not even tell you where to go for the best coffee yet. My favourite place so far is probably the Fox Hotel. It is a great lady-run pub – with great food to boot. I DJ every other Friday, flipping vinyl singles – mostly eighties B-sides mixed with smooth, buttered, mash sounds of DJ Delay. I also like the new Tomboy café that’s opened right near us.

What about 3PBS Radio? I imagine this is another community amenity you are happy to have close by?

Absolutely. I love living so close to where I work; and through work I am involved in all kinds of sponsorship and fundraising events –outdoor cinema 50’s nights at Abbotsford Convent to events at the local venues – so it is great to be close at hand when a costume change is needed!

How long have you been with the station now? And when did you know that you wanted to work in community radio?

I have been with the station for over a year and while my current job is not what I’d consider my profession, working in radio has been great. Ideally my profession is venue management, entertainment management, programming and marketing.

Ever since I first visited my grandad’s hotels on Jersey Island – the largest of the Channel Islands just off the coast of Normandy, France I’ve wanted to work in pubs and hotels. They were these amazing, grand, old art deco hotels that I was allowed to run amok in, eerily similar to the hotel in The Shining… Unfortunately they are all gone now.

Hotels? Multiple? Do tell…

My grandfather was part of a corporation of owners who owned and operated Hotels on Jersey Island in the 60s to 80s. At that time all the rich playboy types would holiday there – before it became cheap to fly to Europe. The Portland Hotel, The Mandalay, The Bouley Bay and others were names of the hotels my grandfather part owned. My parents met on Jersey Is., my mum was a chambermaid in one of the hotels…

Ha! Have you written a song about that yet? So prior to working for 3PBS radio where did you work? Please tell us about your professional pathway – has music always been a base-note?

Yes, definitely. I started playing guitar as a teen and I remember it was one day at the Big Day Out while watching Sonic Youth, a friend told me about a school called Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

Sarah's very good looking matchbox collection
Sarah’s very good looking matchbox collection

Ah, the old Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. Wasn’t that based around here too?

Yes, on Easey Street in Collingwood – the same street where 3PBS radio is…and where I now work.

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School quickly introduced me to the world of local bands and pubs like The Tote and The Arthouse and before I knew it I was booking gigs.

I then studied media at RMIT. I took a radio major and thought it would be more sound-based than it was. Unfortunately it was more centred on PR and essays and I rarely touched anything like a mixing desk.

After university I travelled, and went touring with bands of my own to Japan, USA and, perhaps because of the media course, I ended up being the PR person… then became manager and/or tour manager for all sorts of acts including Bangs (USA), Origami (AUS), Lunachicks (USA), Belters (Japan) and my own acts. I worked for a while at Shock Records and then became the Entertainment Assistant, then Manager of Revolver Upstairs – a fun, crazy, and creative period.

One of Sarah's band posters (she is far right)
One of Sarah’s band’s – Remake Remodel – posters (she is far right).

The owner of Revolver opened both Cookie and Toff In Town while I was there and we all worked on those ideas coming to fruition, which was invaluable experience. I still remember the early design boards for each venue. In 2009 I relocated to the USA but returned a year later for family reasons. I worked in Street press briefly and now at 3PBS radio station as Sponsorship & Promotions Manager.

So, just a few things then! Out of all the above, is there one thing that you have been most proud of professionally?

That’s pretty hard. Perhaps the Ladyfest music festival in Melbourne in 2003 – it was a great success and an empowering festival, and people still talk to me about it.

Other things that come to mind are touring with Le Tigre in the USA – that was really amazing. Organising an event for Snoop Dogg; being part of the first ever Peaches tour; managing HTRK when they recorded the first album with Roland S Howard…oh and I once invited Katy Perry to a queer party I was managing and she turned up and danced the night away – much to the manager of the Bendigo Hotel’s surprise! I have a few new confidential projects up my sleeve and I think I can safely say that the best is soon to come…

We’ll have to check back soon! I do love that in an answer and I can’t wait to see what that is for you. So do you have a dream project at present? From what you’ve just said, music programming sounds important to you?

I would really love to own my own bar/venue. I’ve always run other people’s and I’ve turned some around to make a profit when they were struggling. I know I can do it and isn’t it everyone’s dream to work for themselves?!

Well, after interviewing a lot of people I’m not sure it’s everyone’s dream – but I do understand that drive and it sounds like it is in your genes anyways, as you mentioned your grandfather owned and ran hotels. Are their other hotel owners, musicians or artists in the family?

None at all! A Mexican hairdresser on Melrose place in LA is about as rock ‘n’ roll as they get!

You have travelled a fair bit yourself, for work and for play. What part of the world reminded you the most of Melbourne?

I would pick Williamsburg, New York. Particularly now I live in Collingwood!

Why is that?

So many things. The people, the clothes, the art, the warehouses, the bars, the restaurants… the ironic moustaches and the hipster, gypster (beards) and lipster (lesbian hipster) vibe!

What are the things that you most like, and are most proud of, in Melbourne?

I feel like it’s a creative space here. Everyone I know is creating art and music or going out to support those who are. Working in a not-for-profit radio station allows me to see people really giving just to make sure music that they love is played on air, and it’s an amazing feeling to take those calls for donations or work alongside volunteers giving their time.

Sarah giving me a 3066 house tour

Stairwell feature

The change that you would most like to see in Melbourne…

More generous parking laws – longer hours, cheaper and less fines! Oh, and more dog parks.

People that Inspire you… (Clearly not parking officers!)

Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill for making me believe that anything’s possible, Penny Wong for being out in the world of Australian Politics and Aung San Suu Kyi for never giving up.

Wow that is a pretty diverse choice of career women – is there a personal story attached to your comment on Kathleen Hanna?

Well as a 15-year-old hearing Bikini Kill – it changed what I thought I should sound like, think like and what I could be! Viva la Riot Grrl!

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who did things, and didn’t just talk about them.

Watch this space! Thanks for talking to TENANT about your Melbourne world today, Sarah. Can we ask who you would recommend and introduce to be interviewed by TENANT?

Ahhh so many people. I’ve made a new friend, recently who loves where she lives so much she’s written a blog about it. Weird thing is she lives in Reservoir! I think it’s great that she’s so passionate about it. Her blog puts a smile on my face.

And on mine.. I just checked her blog out – and it is hilarious. I think I am going to take a trip out to 3073 (Reservoir) in search of some “GRE8NES”.

And lastly, what’s store for you this week?

I just returned from a rather inspiring Bigsound music conference in Brisvegas so time to relax now and soak it all in!

Thanks Sarah. Put your feet up – I think you’ll be a busy girl again before too long. Thanks for talking to TENANT. Cheerio for now.

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