26 November 2016

25 Years of Polly’s Follies

It’s the longest running drag show in Australia – Polly’s Follies is about to celebrate its silver anniversary. The story of this phenomenon is now legendary amongst the history of Sydney drag and its star Polly Petrie, well she’s achieved what no other performer is ever likely to again.  

It all began at the Albury Hotel 25 years ago when Leigh Jennings introduced a Sunday evening show that had a sense of difference from the famous production show format that played every night. It was all about having fun – the same purpose continuing right through to today.

Polly Petrie
The format was, as it still is, a drag variety show. A place where up and coming drag queens can make a start, learn the ropes, have room to experiment and as many have, blossom into the performers we have all enjoyed so much over the years. While it has never been a talent quest, it has launched stars.  Some of those who started at Polly’s include: Vanity Faire, Beyonce G-Spot, Christina Dior, Natasha Knowles, Jessica James (Drags Aloud, Melbourne), Feminem (Perth) and Sandy Crack (Brighton, England). 

But make no mistake the star of the show is Polly. All the bouquets are hers. Polly holds the whole show together, making it look almost like a fun party, but really it takes commitment, focus and heaps of talent to guide three hours of entertainment, where anything can happen and no two shows are the same.

When the Albury Hotel closed, Polly took the show on the road. First to the Venus Room in Kings Cross then to the Lizard Lounge at the Exchange Hotel and to its current home for the last 11 years The Stonewall Hotel.  Punters of a certain age will have been in the audiences for the whole journey, and even some of the showgirls will have performed on all of the Follies stages.

23 November 2016

Something special happened at the Sydney Transgender Day of Remembrance Candlelight Vigil

Last Sunday night at Taylor Square Sydney, the traditional heart of the LGBTI community, something very special happened. Trans Sydney Pride, TSP, a social and support group for the Sydney trans community, held the first Sydney Transgender Day of Remembrance Candlelight Vigil.

From 7-30 pm on a warm spring evening people began to gather under the large Pride flag that fly’s on Gilligan’s Island. My trans sisters in a large number, our trans brothers, our beautiful friends and allies and a sprinkling of our community leaders and community organisation’s representatives. The gathering was estimated very conservatively to be of 250 plus.

Just before 8 pm as the light was fading a group of transmen and women, who had marched from an earlier event at Harmony Park, arrived via the South end of the Square led by Police transwoman Sargent Val Wagstaff carrying the Transgender Flag. She took centre position on the Island under the Pride Flag and quietly and with great pride gave the event a visual heart.

Peta Friend the founder of TSP set the mood, as everyone held their flicking candles, with some short well-chosen messages and context of the day, mentioning that our sisters are also gathering at similar events all over the world. Greg Gould sang a very elegant arrangement of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ before the crowd marked a minute of silence.

12 November 2016

Sydney marks Transgender Day of Remembrance 2016

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was established in 1999 as a memorial to those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

The event is held annually on 20 November to honour Rita Hester, whose murder in 1998 instigated the Remembering Our Dead web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like many anti-transgender murder cases remains unsolved. 

This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance in Sydney will be held in Harmony Park, Surry Hills and is sponsored by the Gender Centre, with the support of the Inner City Legal Centre, City of Sydney, NSW Police Force, Queer Screen and Trans Sydney Pride. There will be a free BBQ, with tea, coffee and cake provided throughout the day.

Commencing at 3pm a Police Plaque is to be unveiled in the area around the Police Memorial adjacent to Harmony Park. This Plaque will honour the Trans community and those who have suffered because of transphobia. Following this and back in the Park there will be talks from Edward Santow, the Human Rights Commissioner and Superintendent Tony Crandell of the NSW Police.

These talks will be followed by a Living Library Book feature. The aim of the Living Library is to facilitate conversations between interested members of the public and individuals from marginalised communities. These are the ‘books’ and they are available to the ‘readers’, who can reserve a one-on-one conversation and discuss the life experience of the ‘book’ for half an hour.  The aim is to challenge prejudices and stereotypes and provide the chance for greater understanding in a safe, respectful space.