Music and the Bulldogs: The Emily Ulman story

Emily Ulman's love of the Western Bulldogs is immediately clear to those fortunate enough to meet her in person.

Emily Ulman's love of the Western Bulldogs is immediately clear to those fortunate enough to meet her in person.

The talented musician and festival director is rarely seen without her Bulldogs cap, even when on stage.

According to Ulman, any remaining doubt would be removed with a quick chat to her mum or any of her three sisters. "They know that when there's a game on, I'm to be left alone. No chats, no texts, no WhatsApp messages. When the Dogs are playing, they are my sole focus."

In normal times, Emily can be found at almost every Western Bulldogs match, be that a men's or women's game, and at most VFL games, too, cheering on the 'Scray.

Born and bred in Melbourne, Ulman is somewhat of an unlikely Bulldogs' fan. "Mum's a Carlton fan and Dad barracks for Collingwood. As I kid, I didn't want to let either of them down, so I chose another team."

How did she settle on Footscray? "I think it was the colours. And dogs — who doesn't love dogs?!"

The last couple of years have not been easy for Emily, both in football and work terms. She has desperately missed being able to see the Dogs on a regular basis, but her daily world has also been turned upside down.

"It's just so long since I played a gig", is a phrase Ulman and many musicians have uttered since COVID changed our world early last year. For a music festival director, the pandemic has cut deeper still.

But Emily Ulman is not one to take a setback lying down. The need and want to play and hear music has not abated because of COVID. If anything, the opposite has been true. Recognising this, Ulman created Isol-Aid, an online music festival and gathering space that has allowed artists to play short sets to an online audience who are encouraged to donate in lieu of ticket and drink prices they would have paid at an in-person gig.

Isol-Aid has featured many renowned Aussie artists such as Courtney Barnett, Paul Dempsey Sarah Blasko, John Butler and Missy Higgins to name a few.

In recent years, Ulman has also combined her two great loves, music and footy, by staging an annual "For the Jumper" concert on Grand Final Eve. "We get artists who support each team to play their club song and also another track that describes their season."

The line-up plays in reverse ladder order, with the order of the final two artists — representing the two Grand Final teams — decided by a toss of the coin. According to Ulman, the coin has correctly picked the winning team every year but one since the first "For the Jumper" show in 2014.

Sadly, the pandemic has meant there will be no "Fore the Jumper" concert this year but, with her mighty Bulldogs into the Grand Final, Emily Ulman is as enthusiastic as ever about footy.

"I'm actually loving the two-week lead-in", she says, "because it gives fans a longer chance to soak up the feeling of making the Grand Final before the nerves start creeping in."

Ulman is sad she won't be able to cheer the Dogs in person this year, but she was lucky enough to have been at the MCG for the 2016 premiership win. She celebrated that flag long and hard. "Even now, I still get friends coming up to me describing events of the following days of which I have no recollection!"

If the Bulldogs prevail against the Demons next Saturday week, Emily's celebration options will be more limited than they were in 2016, but she will definitely find a way to celebrate long and hard again.

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