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News May 1, 2023

Read Michael Chugg’s Tribute to Colleen Ironside at the 2023 APRA Awards

The Music Network
Read Michael Chugg’s Tribute to Colleen Ironside at the 2023 APRA Awards

Colleen Ironside was a titan of the concerts industry, a trailblazer who connected the live circuit in Asia like no one before her.

Fittingly, Ironside was posthumously recognised with the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music, a salute to her impressive life and career in music, presented Thursday, April 27 at the 2023 APRA Awards.

Ironside and Men at Work frontman Colin Hay were jointly honoured with the coveted trophy, breaking with 41 years of APRAs tradition.

Legendary concert promoter Michael Chugg was on hand to induct his good friend, doing so with a speech that was both hilarious and touching, and had Chuggi holding back tears.

Read the speech in full below.

Colleen Ironside and Colin Hay

I’m here to tell you the story of a girl from WA who, from 1978 to 2022, became a giant in a business that was once a male-dominated industry.

Colleen Ironside was the eldest of three siblings born on a farm in Kulin in the eastern wheatbelt of Western Australia. From a young age, she was drawn to the magic of music through The Beatles, Go Set Magazine and TV music show, Kommotion.

In 1978 Colleen drove across the Nullarbor, heading to Sydney seeking a new life in rock and roll.

She started out as door girl at the Civic Hotel under promoter Bob Yates, a hot house of cool up-and-coming bands. She began promoting and booking a new breed of artists like Cold Chisel, The Angels, Mi-Sex, The Oils, The Mentals. and Jo Jo Zep.

In 1980 Colleen became the first ever female booking agent in the Australian contemporary music business when she joined The Harbour Agency. She possessed a unique set of qualities along with some rules of “agent engagement” that included –

1. Never get to the office before 1pm or people will think you weren’t up all-night discovering new bands, hustling potential gigs and pursuing new clients.
2. Never take a call before two coffees and a packet of cigarettes.
3. Always leave it until the last possible moment to supply a worksheet just in case some arsehole tried to blow out the gig.
4. And lastly, always argue with your fellow staff members – purely for practice!

Colleen consistently rivalled me as the most feared person at Harbour, and yet was always the most loved. She was a pioneer adored by everyone she worked with.

She was a fierce advocate for her artists and a passionate supporter of First Nations music. She championed the Indigenous band Scrap Metal as well as Broome’s legendary Pigram Brothers.

Colleen had a stint with promotor Michael Edgley after which she launched APA, and for six years booked INXS tours throughout Australia and Asia, along with shows for Jenny Morris, James Reyne, Ratcat, Wendy Matthews and many more.

By 1993 Colleen had decided to retire to the island of Capri.

Frontier Touring were receiving a lot of requests from artists looking for work in Asia. Travelled in Positano on the Amalfi coast, where we convened in a five-star Michelin hotel, that was full of billionaires, models and celebrities, and in the middle of the meal Colleen had an amazing coughing fit which brought the restaurant to a dead halt.

The maitre de thought colleen would die, but Colleen recovered and she agreed to head up Frontier Touring Asia. We hit the ground running with tours by Pearl Jam and the Chili Peppers.

From her home base in Hong Kong, she promptly forged new relationships while breaking ground establishing touring circuits in China and countless other Asian regions. She was Elton John’s agent, promoter and close friend, and once smuggled him out of Beijing after he upset the party faithful who were in the front row of his concert.

In 1999 Colleen formed Live Limited, and over the next two decades promoted everyone from The Rolling Stones to Coldplay and Ed Sheeran.

Colleen was loved by the artists she worked with. At a festival in Hong Kong, Mick Jagger dedicated Angie to Colleen, the first time the Stones had played Angie for 20 years.

And her great friend Chris Martin dedicated a song to her, when Coldplay’s sold-out Bangkok sports stadium.

Michael Chugg

In 2017, Colleen and her clan of cats relocated to Bangkok, as Hong Kong was then firmly under Chinese rule.

She was a wonderful, caring, loving and outspokenly honest person who gave so much of herself to music, the people who made it and the fans she met along the way. She was loved and adored worldwide with friends in every corner of the globe. She loved every day of her life.

The last three weeks of Colleen’s life were spent with the Barnes family in Thailand along with many of her friends and extended family, who had gathered to celebrate her birthday and her life’s voyage.

Nobody cares for endings but for Colleen hers proved to be gentle and peaceful, and for those dear to her, those last days provided treasured memories.

Colleen passed in her sleep on the 22nd of July 2022.

It was a shock to us all – the grief and outpouring of love from every corner of the world was enormous. We had lost a crusader, a leader, a dear friend and most of all a wonderful, one-of-a-kind woman who we all loved and adored.

I stand here tonight, proud and humbled to present the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music to my dear friend and colleague, the unsinkable Colleen Ironside.

To accept the award would you please welcome Colleen’s brother and sister, Jenny and John Healey.

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