6 October 2023

Fighting bullying with flair: 14-year-old's variety show extravaganza back for a fourth year

| Keeli Royle
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Jackaranda says no to bullying cast on stage.

Jackaranda Says NO To Bullying has continued to grow and raise more money for mental health services. Photo: Johnny D Photography.

Musicians, dancers, drag queens and politicians are coming together in the Illawarra to create an epic night of entertainment and raise awareness around mental health and bullying.

The fourth annual variety show created by 14-year-old Jack Khan is set to take place on Saturday 7 October at 7 pm in the Scarlett’s function space at Illawarra Steelers Club.

Jack created a name for himself as young drag queen Jackaranda when he was just nine years old and not much later he decided to use his performing skills and connection to create his own show to draw attention to an important issue.

“In the community I see adults getting bullied by other adults, or kids being bullied by adults, and I’ve been bullied by adults in the community as well,” Jack said. “So it just makes me want to raise awareness about bullying and the effects it has on people’s mental health.”

‘Jackaranda Says No To Bullying’ started as an all-ages variety show at Jack’s school and continued to develop each year with more performers and more funds donated to charity.

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“The show just gets bigger and bigger every year and we raise more money every year and this year we’ve got an amazing line-up and are hoping that people love it,” Jack said.

This year’s star-studded show will include the return of international icons such as INXS front man Ciaran Gribbin and renowned songwriter Paul Beard, The Voice star Aimee Hannan, as well as local talents like drag queens Roxee Horror and Cherry Ripe, performer Scott Radburn and dancers from The Project by Ebony Austin.

And for the first time at his own show, Jack will be stepping away from his wig and performing as himself.

Jack Khan performing with keyboard and mic.

Jack has taken a stand against bullying and created a safe space to showcase talent in the Illawarra. Photo: Supplied.

“I started off doing drag when I was nine and I really liked it but I feel like I want to start stepping away from drag a bit,” Jack said. “I’m really grateful for doing drag because it gave me a stepping stone into performing.”

“It’s definitely something that I had to build up my confidence not being in drag behind makeup and a wig and everything.”

Alongside more than a dozen performers, there will also be special guests and speakers such as Acon Health Officer Josef Garrington, Cunningham MP Alison Byrnes and Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery.

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The range of personalities and perspectives all work together to create an inclusive show for a great cause.

“I just feel happy that it’s actually having some impact and people are having a space where they feel comfortable just being themselves,” Jack said.

The event not only raises awareness about bullying but also has donated thousands of dollars to charities. All funds raised from this year’s show will go to One Door Mental Health.

The variety show will feature both international and local talents. Photo: Johnny D Photography.

Although Jack doesn’t know how the show will look in the years to come, the community support and performer interest could indicate that there is a long future ahead for ‘Jackaranda Says No To Bullying’.

“I hope that I can just keep doing this event as just Jack and people come back and have a safe space,” he said.

‘Jackaranda Says No To Bullying’ is on Saturday 7 October at 7 pm in the Scarlett’s function space at Illawarra Steelers Club.

To buy tickets or find out more visit the event website.

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