Arts and culture are the lifeblood of Melbourne. And while coronavirus has the city’s festivals and venues on pause for now, the City of Melbourne is planning to get that blood pumping again with their 2021 Event Partnership Program.

The program is designed to support free and accessible events scheduled for any date next year – the kinds of memorable, engaging and original experiences that make Melbourne such a thriving cultural hub.

“The Event Partnership Program has been designed to support the wide variety of public events held in our city,” says Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp. “Events are a major driver of our economy, provide a boost to local businesses and support jobs for Melburnians. They are a really important element of what makes Melbourne such a liveable city.”

The program aims to support organisers planning new or existing events within the City of Melbourne municipality, and the mandate is broad. Events could focus on food and wine, the arts, innovation, sport, sustainability, or health and wellbeing.

Capp says the program has been made more flexible to account for the uncertainty around when large gatherings will be possible again.

“We don’t know how long these restrictions will last, but we’re doing everything we can to help our event partners plan for the future,” she says. “The events industry needs to be in a position to thrive when people start coming back into the city.

“Each year, events supported by our program attract 3.45 million people to the city and deliver an economic impact of $618 million. They play a vital role in our economy and bring life and creativity to our city.”

Nobody knows that better than music booker Emily Ulman. For the last two years she’s programmed the Brunswick Music Festival, which was cancelled in its second week this year due to coronavirus restrictions.

A veteran of the Changes summit, The Toff in Town, Gasometer and Melbourne’s White Night Festival, Ulman is currently a driving force behind Isol-Aid, a virtual festival of Australian music being live-streamed on Instagram every weekend.

“Festivals are emblematic of community,” says Ulman, “and Melbourne is wondrously fortunate to have so many creative communities doing amazing work. You can see that celebrated in the festival context. Music is of course closest to my heart, but regardless of the creative platform, Melburnians value coming together to celebrate a common passion.”

Ulman says she’s seeing clear evidence of that urge to come together and connect during Covid-19 as the music community shifts its focus to the online realm.

“The solidarity of the community – artists, their teams, and punters alike – during Isol-Aid has been a career highlight for me,” she says. “Mind-blowing performances, generous donations to Support Act, beautiful comments on the livestreams – it’s all melted my heart into a puddle.”

As lockdown is lifted and people start heading back out on the town, sponsorships such as the Event Partnership Program will be an essential part of getting performers and entertainers back to doing what they do best.

“I know it will be a tough road back,” says Ulman, “but our music community is going to be more than fine.”

Interested applicants can find out more information by emailing the Events Partnership team (eventsponsorship@melbourne.vic.gov.au).

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with City of Melbourne.