Happy 50th: The Pollys Club reaches half-century milestone
Australia’s longest-running LGBTI social club this week marks its half-century milestone. Happy birthday Pollys Club. Reg Domingo reports.
In 1964, in a time when social outlets for LGBTI people in Sydney were few and far between, six friends came together to form their own community group. Half a century later, that organisation continues to operate, offering LGBTI people a space to come together and connect in a safe, fun and friendly environment.
This is the Pollys Club, which this week celebrates their 50th anniversary.
“It’s a pretty amazing achievement,” says Pollys Club member Garry Trotter. “As far as we know, we’re the longest running gay social club in the world.”
It’s a noteworthy feat indeed, especially in Sydney’s ever-changing event landscape. That people still flock to a Pollys Club party 50 years since its inception is a testament to its enduring and broad appeal. This, Trotter says, is key to the Pollys Club’s longevity.
“There were a number of organisations like the Pollys in the 80s and 90s, and were alternatives to the Oxford Street scene, but the Pollys is the only that’s left out of that,” Trotter tells SX.
“I think the Pollys have survived because it is still an alternative for a number of people to the Oxford Street [scene]. And it caters for everybody’s tastes, from young guys to leather queens, to drag queens and lesbians – anyone who comes along is welcome. People don’t make judgements. You can come and have a good time without feeling out of place. It’s one of those sorts of events.”
Trotter is well placed to provide an insight into the club, being its longest-serving continuous member. He came to be involved with Pollys in 1982 and has since filled various roles including serving as its president and being part of the executive committee.
GALLERY: Check out The Pollys Club at their 49th birthday event. To view the full gallery, click here
In that time, he has observed many changes in the way the club operates.
“The organisation has changed very dramatically,” he says. “In the earlier days, things were much stricter. It was a lot more authoritarian. Now it’s much more relaxed. It’s moved with the times, and we try and keep up with what people want.”
And what people want is a good time.
The Pollys Club now holds four parties a year, staged at The Roundhouse in Kensington and Marrickville Town Hall. They attract a wide range of people of diverse ages, sexualities and cultures. Trotter says that part of the appeal of the club’s events is the music and shows.
“There’s a bit of that historical stuff – the Kylies and YMCA – the stuff that people can dance to and have a good time.
“And we have drag shows. None of us are perfect in the drag shows. We all get up and have a good time. We know we’re not perfect and we make mistakes, but that’s all part of it.
“It’s a low key social atmosphere that people can come along and enjoy an alternative to the Oxford Street scene and other hook up joints.”
But it’s not all just revelry and merriment as Pollys Clubs events also serve as fundraisers for a community grants program. Fund raised at Pollys go towards helping local LGBTI groups and project.
Thus, the 50th birthday party will not only celebrate the club’s achievement, but also pay tribute to the many people in the community who have supported the Pollys Club over the years.
“Come along and help celebrate the Pollys,” Trotter says. “Celebrate the fact that Sydney has the longest-running gay social organisation in the world and we should be very proud of that. And we’ve only survived because we’ve been supported by Gay Sydney.”
The Polly Club 50th Birthday Party 'Deja Vu' is on Saturday, JUly 5, from 7.30pm, at UNSW Roundhouse. Tickets from thepollysclub.com.au