Music Industry’s Long-Running Golden Stave Lunch Bounds Back For Charity

22 September 2023 | 9:01 am | Christie Eliezer

One of the Australian entertainment industry’s longest running charity events is back after being sidelined for two years by COVID.

2023 Golden Stave Lunch

2023 Golden Stave Lunch (Supplied)

More Rolling Stones More Rolling Stones

One of the Australian entertainment industry’s longest running charity events is back after being sidelined for two years by COVID.

Over 43 years, the Golden Stave Lunch has raised $15 million for 50+ children's charities in NSW.

About 450 execs from publishers, record labels, radio, promoters, booking agencies, magazines, entertainment freight companies and audio production firms will check their egos and rivalries at the door.

“It’s about fun, camaraderie and raising money for a great cause,” says publisher Peter Hebbes of Hebbes Music Group, one the Sydney event’s co-founders and a Trustee. “There are no egos, we’re all trying to make a difference to those in the community who need it.”

The Golden Stave Lunch is more relevant than ever, he adds, explaining, “Since COVID we’ve had very little communication between companies and it’s great to be able to mix again. Everyone’s had a tough time financially, so for them to continue to support the Golden Stave is an amazing achievement and we’re so grateful for that.”

The late Graham Fear, former General Manager of Showgroup and one of the Lunch’s biggest sponsors for many years, served as Golden Stave Chairman until his passing in 2017.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

During his final year he made changes within the Golden Stave Foundation at Trustee/Director level and bought in fresh faces to the working committee. Clive Thomas of CT Freight, long term supporter, came on board as a Trustee and then replaced Fear as Chairman which has seen a resurgence in many of the Stave’s fundraising activities.

The Lunch has always been aided by an electric good-natured atmosphere, five-song sets from top acts and endless fine wines, where everyone outbids for hard-to-get items and experiences.

A signed Rolling Stones guitar and setlist went for $37,000. Advertising packages from radio and TV networks worth $50,000 would go for $70,000.

The camaraderie would continue long after three-hour lunch, with celebrations heading close to midnight whether, watching a state of origin rugby match on large screens, or just bar-hopping.

This year’s event, on Friday October 6 at the Four Seasons Hotel, features sets from the Radiators, Dave Faulkner, Little Quirks and Chris Ryan.

Auction items include signed guitars from two legendary bands and a high profile singer songwriter.

Cut Lunch

The idea of the Golden Stave Lunch came from the UK’s Silver Clef Lunch, which set up in London in 1976, and has raised £11 million (A$21.1 million) for Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy since.

Hebbes came from London in 1977 to head Festival’s music publishing. Another UK-hailed exec with similar views about a charity lunch was Chris Gilbey.

He first arrived in Australia in 1972 and worked in A&R at Albert Productions where he played a big role in helping to launch AC/DC. He returned to the UK with the Saints, whom he was managing, and was back in 1978 to head up the Australian operations of ATV Northern Songs publishing.

The pair sounded out colleagues, who gave them the thumbs-up. A meeting was held at Hebbes’ office, with PolyGram RecordsRoss Barlow and Leeds Music’s Jack Argent. A committee was formed, and ‘Golden Stave’ decided as a pun on Silver Clef.

The first Lunch was on Friday March 16, 1979, at the Sebel Townhouse with 187 invited guests. It raised $3,000, which the Government matched at four to one, making a total of $12,000.

At that stage, the committee was still working out whom to distribute the funds to. A friend of Gillbey’s on the board of ParaQuad, which works with people living with spinal cord injury, invited him to speak at a board meeting.

“How much do you want to get paid?” they asked.

“Nothing, we just want to raise money for you!”

They responded, “You’re the first person who’s offered to give us all the money you’ve raised.”

Hitting The Heights

By the late ‘90s when the entertainment industry was at its most flush, the Golden Stave Lunch had to move to larger venues like the Entertainment Centre and Hordern Pavilion when it was drawing 1,000 to 1,200 guests.

It was raising between $760,000 and $800,000 each event, peaking at $920,000 in 2004.

Items for auction included around-the-world flights from Emirates, overnight stays at five-star hotels, guitars from Slash and Bon Jovi, tickets to sold-out festivals, signed posters from Coldplay and Pearl Jam, signed sporting jerseys, 10-album box sets from The Beatles, Midnight Oil, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen, 10-day rentals of vehicles, gourmet picnic baskets, golf packages, and $4,000 colour lithographs by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

Among celebrity guest hosts were Molly Meldrum who was carried on to the stage by lifesavers, Rove McManus who kept crowd surfing throughout, Charlotte Dawson, Ian “Dicko” Dickson and Robert ‘Dipper’ Dipierdomenico.

Some of the best known names in the wider entertainment industry served in its committees, and some stayed for long periods.

Larry Warren, previous PolyGram, CBS Records and EMI Music executive, is currently in the financial services world. “Whilst at CBS Records (aka Sony Music) I was asked to join the Golden Stave committee in 1988 as their representative and have now served as General Manager since 2007. We are purely a volunteer organisation and we are very grateful for the continued support we receive on all levels from our friends in the music, entertainment, freight, travel and hospitality industries”.

In 1987, production whiz and artist manager Mick Mazzone (Ian Moss, Bondi Cigars) was asked by committee member Michael Chugg, “Can you lend a hand for two hours?”

Mazzone chuckles, “I ended UP spending three days putting the Golden Stave show together and I’ve been there since, 37 years later! I’m a Trustee now which is a nice thing to do.”

First-Hand Experiences

The continued commitment from industry executives stems from first-hand seeing how the charity funds have changed the lives of vulnerable people, he says.

Mazzone: “We bought a mini-van for paraplegic kids in Lismore for $25,000, and their carers were telling us, ‘You don’t know what it means to them, it’s made such a difference’. It gives you such a good feeling.

“A North Sydney youth program got musical instruments – guitars, drums, amps — and the program coordinator was saying, ‘This is just life-changing. They were struggling to get instruments, and now they can create a whole number of bands.”

Peter Hebbes: “The Golden Stave financed the Nordoff Music Therapy Centre (now known as NORO). It uses therapy to reach autistic children with the sound and vibration of music. I’ve had parents ringing me up saying they’ve had communication after they hadn’t had a word from their child in years.”

Chris Gilbey: “When you have friends who have children with disabilities, you know the challenges associated with parenting that child is extraordinary.  It’s hugely time consuming and emotionally draining.

“For others there is not a lot you can do except provide money to help afford certain things. You can give them a bit of sanity back. At the end of the day we are social beings, and we live better lives when we recognise that we are inter-dependent. We have to be part of a community to survive and thrive.”

Among Projects Financed By The Golden Stave:

NORO Music Therapy is based at the Golden Stave Music Therapy Centre Kingswood, and makes a big impact to children with various challenges, disabilities and health issues, through delivery of high-quality music therapy and community music programs. Golden Stave is a key supporter.

The Redkite Music Therapy program at the Sydney Childrens Hospital Randwick.

The Shepherd Centre which believes all children deserve a voice and the opportunity to attend mainstream education. Every day it works with hearing impaired babies, infants and children developing skills to reach their full potential.

The Berala Project which is a uniquely designed housing development incorporating six specially equipped units for wheelchair-bound people.

Camp Breakaway providing funds for specialist camps which enhances the lives of people with disabilities, their families and carers

St George Children & Disabilities Fund Music Therapy program at the St George Hospital School for Children who have moderate to severe illnesses, including mental health issues.

Central Coast Kids in Need program for families who have seriously ill children, assisting them with accommodation and travel costs when they have to go to Sydney/Newcastle hospitals for specialised treatment.

The Humour Foundation Clown Doctors who work in partnership with healthcare professionals, embracing the philosophy 'laughter is the best medicine', and can improve the quality of life for sick kids in hospital.

Heart Kids care bags for families and kids with heart disease to help overcome the shock and trauma of their first arrival at hospital.

Support KidsXpress with musical instruments for the Music Therapy program to support children living with the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s). The program helps in the prevention of early-mental health issues.

Wheelchair Sports which enriches the lives of people with a physical disability through participation in sport, by providing regular, accessible sports programs and services. Golden Stave funds the Junior Wheelies program.

Desperately needed equipment for Ferguson Lodge, which provides specialised nursing and medical care as well as accommodation for 42 paraplegics and quadriplegics, and a music room dedicated to the memory of the late Jack Argent.