Powerhouse Late x Vivid Ideas: Queer Sydney – Co-Curator Johnny Allen On Blending Camp With Serious

The 2022 Sydney Vivid Ideas programme presents Queer Sydney.

Danny in Synthetic Diamonds by William Yang

Queer Sydney is a celebration of the city's LGBTQIA+ history and an exploration of its lineage, from the original Mardi Gras 78ers to now.

The one-night-only programme features performances, screenings of queer film, panels, talks, visuals and music, and is a free event. It's a programme combining serious with camp, with a host of names and personalities throughout, like Cindy Pastel, Sexy Galexy, Matt Bergan, Declan Greene, Dollar Bin Darlings and more. . . Also featured will be a collection of images from the Powerhouse collection, by photographers Lexy Potts and Jamie James.

Queer Sydney has been curated by Johnny Allen, C.Moore Hardy and Dino Dimitriadis.

Co-curator Johnny Allen is a seminal figure in the alternative arts/culture industry in Australia who has a number of productions and events under his belt, and has been awarded Membership of the Order of Australia for his services to the event industry in Australia. Among a number of other achievements, he produced Sydney's first gay film festival, Images Of Gays, in 1978, and founded the Australian Centre For Event Management at the University Of Technology Sydney.

Here, we speak to Johnny about his involvement in Queer Sydney and what the offering means to him.

Tell us a bit about Queer Sydney.
Queer Sydney is one of three Late Nights at the Powerhouse Museum for Vivid Sydney. On Thursday 16 June, it will celebrate Sydney’s queer culture from the early days of the gay liberation movement in the 1960s/'70s to today. Visitors will be able to view all of the current Powerhouse Museum exhibitions, as well as queer talks, performances, disco, films and images in every corner of the museum.

LexyPotts QueerSydney1
Image © Lexy Potts


What is the goal for the event as a whole?
The goal is to celebrate our queer lives and culture, and the role that they have played, and continue to play, in the life of the city in line with Vivid’s theme of The Soul of Sydney.

What does it mean for this to be a part of the Vivid Ideas programme?
It recognises that Sydney is renowned as one of the queer capitals of the world, and that its queer community has contributed much to our cultural, sporting and civic life, as well as to our international image and identity.

As co-curator, what have you tried to bring to the table for this event?
The topic is so broad that it has been literally impossible to include all aspects of the community and culture. I have tried to identify some key elements and people, from both past and present, that have made a major contribution, whilst striving to make the night a fun event and a true celebration.

What are you most looking forward to in Queer Sydney, and why?
Two things, the seminar 'From Camp To Gay To Queer: A Continuum Or A Disconnection?' because it explores a question that genuinely interests me, and that links both past and present. And secondly, 'Queer Fashion On The Escalators' featuring drag kings and queens, trans and burlesque performers from then and now, because I like a bit of bling and feathers!

LexyPotts QueerSydney2
Image © Lexy Potts


Why is it important for the offering to be a combination of camp and fun WITH more serious perspectives too?
In my lifetime, the queer community has achieved a lot, as has the wider community in its acceptance, understanding and inclusivity. We have come a long way, but there is still some distance to go, and I think it is appropriate for the evening to be a celebration with a little bit of thought provocation and discussion.

And how are you hoping audiences respond to what is being presented?
I want the audience to have a great, fun and memorable night. If they are queer, I want them to come away proud of their community, its history and achievements, and if they are not, to come away with a little more respect for, and knowledge of Queer Sydney.

Powerhouse Late x Vivid Ideas: Queer Sydney takes place at MAAS Powerhouse Museum (Sydney) 16 June.

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