Kensington BackyardsImage supplied: Kensington Backyard Sessions.
This article is taken from
Our Community Matters.
Get the latest edition here.

Who are the people in your neighbourhood?

Community spirit is brewing in the backyards of Kensington, Melbourne, writes Alex McMillan, and the neighbourhood is growing together and giving back.

Like many people involved in the community sector, Kensington musician Tim Solly found himself drawn to the idea of connecting with those around him.

“Twelve weeks after my daughter was born, I was lying in bed trying to get back to sleep after being up with her. I was thinking about what kind of world I wanted her to grow up in,” Tim told Our Community.

He remembers a childhood within an organised neighbourhood full of friendships, but found that as an adult he barely spoke to those he passed on the streets near his house. “I wanted the same childhood for my daughter – I wanted her to feel safe and connected to the community around her.”

Inspiration struck, and Tim decided to start hosting an event to bring people in Kensington together. “I thought, ‘What are my strengths?’. Being a musician, it seemed natural to do something around that.” He wanted to keep it “genuine and down-to-earth”, and the Kensington Backyard Sessions were born.

To get started, Tim reached out through social media to anyone who might want to host a private musical event in their backyard, offering “copious amounts of high fives” in return. At first, he received a lot of suggestions to host it in a local park or public space, but he was determined to stick to his original plan of holding it in a backyard.

“There’s something really nice about someone inviting you in and hosting you in their home. It changes the feeling of the event, and makes it more personal.” After the initial trepidation, a few people eager to be involved emerged, and interest increased after each session.

“The last piece of the puzzle was to raise money for local charities, to really give back to the community,” Tim says. He also encouraged musicians to open their cases at the end of each performance to accept donations for their performance.

Two years later, the initiative has been a huge success. Each month over spring and summer, Kensington locals gathered in a different backyard to share an afternoon in the sun (and sometimes in the rain), hear music from local artists, and munch on a snag. Ticket sales alone have raised $5,500 for local organisations. The latest session saw $670 donated to McAuley Community Services for Women.

“It’s working for everyone,” Tim says. “We all feel closer and good about what we’re doing in our community.”

To anyone considering starting up a similar event in their own community, Tim advises, “Keep it simple.” He started out offering sausages for sale in addition to the main event, for example, but finished up including raffles and a barbeque in the ticket pricing. And where once a Kensington Backyard Session hosted three bands, now there’s just a single act at each session.

“Throw yourself in and stay true to that community vision,” he says. “The magic that comes out of expecting nothing in return for your actions means you actually get so much out of it.”

If you’re a Kensington local, or just want to know more, check out Kensington Backyard Sessions on Facebook:

More Our Community News