For the last six months Sydney’s lesbian communities have been coming together like never before -“ and it’s all been in the name of karaoke.

Dikes On Mikes -“ Lesbian Idol has grown into what’s believed to be the biggest lesbian event in Australia, and the grand final of the competition is predicted to be the most popular event of the 2005 Mardi Gras festival. Tickets sell out weeks in advance for the monthly heats held in Newtown, and it attracts a broad range of women aged from 18 to 80. There’s about to be a Lesbian Idol CD on the market and there’s even talk of a TV show.

The competition has become a phenomenon the likes of which hasn’t been seen on the local queer scene.

Dikes On Mikes director Yvonne Hall, who is also the brains behind the competition, said bringing so many diverse lesbians together in the one room is really quite unique. She puts the event’s success down partly to timing -“ with the popularity of TV singing competitions like Australian Idol -“ but it’s also because it offers something that hasn’t been around for a long time.

It’s a community event that’s fun, where people can interact. The girls just get so involved and cheer their friends on, and there is nothing else like it, said Hall. You can pay $20 and go to a nightclub, or pay $10 and go to Dikes On Mikes and have the time of your life. It’s a quality night.

Hall came up with the idea after becoming a keen spectator at a karaoke bar in Redfern. She was amazed by the high standard of singers she saw and heard, and when the event was scrapped she thought it would be fun to start up her own night.

Upon looking into it she quickly discovered karaoke isn’t something many people take seriously. All the karaoke nights I came across were comical. I thought, there’s an opportunity here to develop lesbian singers, and when we started off we were amazed by the talent coming along. I was overwhelmed by them.

The nights were an instant hit and the semi-final of the competition is being held this Friday 17 December at the huge Fox Studios venue Stage 11. The eight finalists will then perform a group song at the Mardi Gras festival launch in Hyde Park on 4 February, in the lead-up to the grand final to be held on 11 February.

The winner will be given a contract with Gogirlfriend Enterprises to record tracks for the upcoming Lesbian Idol double CD, will release a single from the album, plus she will be taken on a promotional tour of the United States in March 2005.

As for the TV show, Hall said she’s thinking about it but would only do it if she could retain ownership of the concept because I don’t want it to turn into something like a Las Vegas sideshow.

In the meantime she’s happy concentrating on the Sydney shows, which some people, it seems, can’t live without.

A girl who comes to all our shows recently said to me: -˜Yvonne, there’s only two things a lesbian needs in life. One’s a reliable tampon, and the other’s a Dikes On Mikes ticket,’ Hall laughed.

I thought that was beautiful.

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