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Dame Sybil Von Thorndyke and the Queen's Birthday Balls

  • Clive Moore

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Dame Sybil is one of Brisbane's most famous drag personas. In 1962 Dame Sybil was one of the founders of Brisbane's annual Queen's Birthday Ball, the longest continuously running annual gay celebration in the world. The balls have become extravagant dance parties, far removed from their humble origins in a house at Mt Tamborine. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, gays and lesbians were a persecuted minority who held private house parties and preferred to stay out of sight. The groundbreaking Queen's Birthday Balls were an important part of the cultural and political ‘coming out’ of the modern queer community. It is difficult to appreciate the importance of the balls as ever more popular meeting places where Brisbane's gay and straight worlds mingled. Now the dance parties are attended by thousands of mainly young people, and rigid gender and sexual boundaries have become less obvious. The venues have changed over the years, moving through various nightclubs in Fortitude Valley and most recently to the Ekka pavilions. They are replete with great stage performances and wonderful costumes. With Dame Sybil and some of the original partygoers in attendance, the Queen's Birthay Balls remain a special marker of Brisbane's not-so-accepting past and the resilience of the city's gay subculture.

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Dame Sybil Von Thorndyke and the Queen's Birthday Balls

  • Clive Moore

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