Is there a better venue in Sydney? A 19th-century paddle steamer, on the harbour, with the spectacular lights of Vivid Sydney illuminating the city as the backdrop.
It’s the setting for the 2014 Beard Season launch party, a boater-themed affair hosted by Henry Wagons. It will also feature a roster of jugglers, burlesque dancers and a seven-piece band aboard the floating Sydney Harbour Ballroom.
Beard Season is the creation of Jimmy Niggles, a notable Sydney resident recognisable for his frankly epic chest warmer. Niggles created the annual Beard Season after losing one of his friends, Wes Bonny, to melanoma four years ago.
“Wes's melanoma was on his neck, and not many blokes our age had beards back then. We decided to grow beards to not only cover up from the harsh Aussie sun, but to share Wes's story with anyone who asked about our beards,” he says.
Through promoting Beard Season via social media and with the help of a growing group of 500 ambassadors, Niggles hopes to encourage men all over the world to get regular skin checks.
“Every week we'll receive a message from someone who has found a melanoma because of what we're doing. It's a very humbling movement to be part of – you never know who you’ll talk to – whose life you could actually save.”
Niggles’ plans for Beard Season are grand. The launch will be a lavish affair. It starts at 3pm at Bungalow 8. Then guests board the party boat at 4pm. After the boat docks at 9pm, guests will be whisked away to an after party held at a secret location.
Following the official launch is a fundraising season that features a calendar of parties, school talks, pub trivia and surf competitions.
“We're planning a ride from Sydney to Parliament House on penny farthings to push for skin checks to be totally covered by Medicare,” says Niggles.
Pushing the limits of credulity, the self-styled skin check ambassador also mentions hosting the world’s first beard Olympics.
“We're also hustling to run Beard Season barbecues around the country at festivals, sporting events and beaches with free skin-check sessions,” he tells us.
One of the great achievements of Niggles’ Beard Season is that it has managed to raise awareness around a serious health issue using the current craze sweeping Sydney for the full beard.
“From lads out car windows to execs at boardroom tables, everyone seems excited to openly share their appreciation for a fine thicket of whiskers,” he says. “It's a beautiful human thing.”
The 2014 Beard Season Launch Party is on June 1 at the Sydney Harbour Ballroom. Tickets are $120 and are available from beardseason.iwannaticket.com.au