What goes into a GDS launch party? General manager Em Andersen reflects on the madness of party prep time as we ready ourselves for the launch of No. 35 tonight in Fitzroy.

“Have we got all the tubs for drinks and ice that we need? And how are we going to get all that beer up those stairs?”


We’re a few hours away from the Going Down Swinging No. 35 launch, and conversations about the event have just started to enter that high-pitched, panicky realm. And that’s just me talking to myself.

I am no stranger to events and the excitement and pressure they bring. As general manager of Express Media, I think I helped organise more than fifteen Voiceworks launches, and I am also a spoken word theatre kid so I know all about opening night nerves.

But there is a special something about a GDS launch. It’s an all-in team affair where everyone brings their awesome skills and just kind of finds their role. You draw up a Google docs list for people to fill in who’s doing what, and before you can say “I really hope the journals get delivered on time” you have a gorgeous spreadsheet full of buzzing activity.

My first GDS event as GM here was earlier this year, when we launched our digital issue No. 34 at Dawson St Studios in Brunswick. I had only just joined GDS and remember being amazed at how the team instinctively knew what needed to be done and who was doing it, and did it all with good humour and a few cheeky drinks. I think it was then that I knew I was working with some very ace people.

That launch was a slightly different beast to the one we working on now. The No. 34 launch was one of GDS’s famed warehouse parties, where lit lovers and Melbourne kids-about-town come together for a night of dancing, drinks and whatever turns up. I remember overhearing a young arty type talking about a substance he’d ingested on the way to the launch, and realised that I never thought a literary launch could be so rock’n’roll.


Photo by Emma Battaglene

This time around we’re trying a focus on the words, and put on a spoken word show that will both smack you in the face and give you a nice reassuring back rub. A free bar will help us toast our exciting line up of Marty Donald (of The Lucksmiths fame), Yana Alana, Ben Pobjie and spoken word master Benezra.

At GDS we think there’s many ways to celebrate the spoken and written word, and we will continue to jump between the raucous and the considerate, and all types of events in between.

Our weekly staff meetings leading up to a launch are full of fevered conversations like, “How much should we charge for entry?” and, “When is the right time to press the button on all our publicity?” Bit by bit, our discussions build a picture of the event we’re producing.

I love the result we’ve come up with for No. 35 – an innovative venue in ‘Fitzroy Illegal’, and $25 tickets that get you entry, some amazing performers, mingling rights with some darn awesome lit folk, a few drinks and, of course, the beautiful GDS No. 35 itself. I challenge you to find a better journal/performance/drink deal anywhere in Melbourne.

The part of launch preparation I loved most last time, and am looking forward to again, is the team getting together, rolling up our sleeves and getting that venue ready. Like our No. 34 launch, this time we’ve chosen a venue that needs a LOT of work before we can open the doors to you lovely people. I remember last time watching Geoff move sections of stage around, while Katia and Alice tied the fake palm tree branches they’d found to milk crates to make a very hip toilet queue marker.

When you rock up to the No. 35 launch, you’ll know nothing has been set up by apathetic venue staff or a soulless hire company. That furniture has been moved by the GDS team members with love.

I’ll finish this post with a confession: I am a huge Lucksmiths fangirl and am so, so excited to see the indomitable Marty Donald perform for GDS. Nobody turns a phrase or gets away with a pun, or simultaneously breaks your heart and swells your soul, like Marty.

If you see me at the launch, come say ‘hi’. Most of the night I’ll probably be floating around picking up glasses and checking there’s enough paper in the loos. But when Marty’s on, I’ll be the one down the front, in my best Melbourne cardigan, swooning along to everything he says.