Australia’s oldest gay and lesbian social group, The Pollys Club, celebrates its 40th birthday this weekend with a sold-out party at the University of NSW.

The Pollys have held regular dances for queer people of all ages and genders since forming in July 1964. The group, which was named after one of its original six founders, held its first function at Petersham Town Hall in November 1964 and consisted of a disco with drag shows -“ a format they still use today.

The ethos of the club was to hold gay functions, because there were no gay clubs in those early days. On our committees we made sure we had solicitors so we could be sure of staying on the side of the law, which was very hard to do when homosexuality was outlawed. Thankfully the police always turned a blind eye to our gatherings, Pollys president and 25-year member Bill Mansell said.

During the 1970s, 80s and up to the late 90s the club was mainly based at Coronation Hall in Mascot but members also held events at Leichhardt Town Hall, the University of NSW and Sydney University.

In the 1970s they started the club’s popular games and picnic day, the Poly-lympics, which drew crowds of about 2,000. The Poly-lympics not only had the usual athletic competitions but also handbag tossing, wet Speedos and T-shirt competitions and other novelty events. The last Poly-lympics was held at Erskineville Oval in 1997.

The group’s bimonthly dances today usually attract around 500 people and 850 tickets have been sold for this weekend’s 40th birthday party.

All money raised at the club’s events is donated to charities including the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the RSPCA and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation. For more info go to www.thepollysclub.com.au.

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