Balnarring gal brings artistic direction to the Espy By Liz Rogers


Janenne Willis has been exceptionally busy since we last chatted about her multiple artistic endeavours. Immersive live art experience SWELL 3.0, which was held at Point Nepean, went off with a blistering bang as mentioned in Mornington Peninsula Magazine’s January edition, so we figured that SWELL 4.0, to be held at the newly refurbished Espy in St Kilda, is set to do the same. 

The Hotel Esplanade — or the Espy as it is fondly known — holds brilliant memories for many of us. Hot summer nights stuffed with mad music, endless chatter and plenty of carry on with the pumping beat of Fitzroy and Acland streets stomping in the background. Lunar Park cracking one big cheesy smile. Now exquisitely reimagined, this iconic spot for all things creative is bringing its arts A-game with Janenne at the helm. She’s been appointed artistic director, which means she gets to experiment, promote artists she respects and admires, have mega fun and launch her SWELL 4.0 Music as Medicine experience this month. We chat.

“I mean, how good is that? I feel so lucky to be in the position I’m in. Being commissioned to develop the inaugural artistic program at the Espy, I get to bring the arts to what was classically known as a pub. Over the last five years I’ve had a central idea around the power of live art/music to connect us to our inner selves and our environment. SWELL 4.0 continues that theme, inviting you to step inside a surreal world of reimagined live music and journey through multiple music-meets-art encounters. You’ll also get to explore parts of the Espy that are still closed to the public,” she giggles. “There’ll be five shows starting with the first on February 13 and ending on March 3. All five levels of the building will be in operation and all five shows will be slightly different experiences.” 

But that’s just one event that’s happening over the next few months at this iconic institution. Janenne has plenty of other creative experiences in store. Go to to check out more.

St Kilda may be a bit of a hike from Shoreham, where Janenne now lives, but her roots are firmly planted in pristine Mornington Peninsula sand. Born and bred down south where the sea crashes against the coast, her next port of call later in the year will be closer to home and involves a live music sculpture underneath the sea. Yep, you read right. A live music sculpture will manifest as a physical experience for residents and visitors to explore via snorkel or glass-bottom vessel. 

“Drawing on sounds emanating from our ocean ecology, including sea life, rocks, waves and beyond, musicians and producers will create a transcending live music score that people can hear while exploring the underwater world. I creatively developed this during my artist-in-residence at Police Point to explore questions like what it might be like to live underwater if rising seas make it impossible to survive on land. The experience aims to provoke conversation around living sustainably and to listen to what the ocean is saying to us. DEEP SOUND will hopefully be presented next summer,” she concludes.

Pick up some tix for SWELL 4.0 Music as Medicine in the meantime at to move and groove, and visit to sign up for updates about DEEP SOUND. The future is now. ‘Nuff said.

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