A gay business is a little bit like a gay person. Some are discreet, some are invisible, some are political and some are as camp as Christmas.

The King Street South shop Queer As Flowers is definitely in the latter category. Owned and run by gay couple Brock Phillips and Graeme Austin, the business is primarily a florist shop, but also doubles as an art gallery for predominantly queer artists. Phillips learned his trade in California, producing arrangements for Shirley Temple, Joan Baez and Shirley MacLaine, with a self-proclaimed flamboyant style.

Since opening in July this year, the pair have already hosted two gallery opening parties which have included drag shows, body painting, wine tastings, and go-go dancers. The photos on their website (www.queerasflowers.com.au) suggest events a step to the left of your average gallery opening, traditionally consisting of free bubbly, dry speeches and muted hubbub.

The parties have also included raffles and charity art auctions, a fundraising tradition which Brock and Graeme have been upholding since they first met nine years ago.

This is actually our 10th Christmas together and we’ve actually done fundraising every year, Phillips said. We’ve previously done it for kids. We’ve done it for Westmead Hospital, North Shore Hospital, last year was for Vinnie’s Hospital, we’ve done it for Penrith Fire Station. But this year because we have the business and we’re in the community -¦ so we’ve decided to go with the adults.

The adults in this case are 250 people living with HIV (including a number living with terminal illnesses) who are represented by tags on Christmas trees around the shop. Visitors are asked to buy either a gift hamper, plant or floral arrangement or a number of other selected gifts to place under the tree -“ and 80 have already been donated.

Kids tend to get looked after from, you know, KMart wish trees and what have you, Phillips said. We wanted to do our own thing and we set the target fairly high, but we’re hoping.

The 10th annual Christmas gift appeal (entitled Dare To Care) will see gifts donated to clients of Twenty10 and of MCC Welfare. Donors are invited to visit the gallery and give generously -“ but also to take a peek at the latest exhibition.

The third exhibition party will be held this Saturday, with gay artists Conrad Dunn, Maggie Ralston, Steve Squirrel and Jorge represented (as well as token but welcomed heterosexual Jeanette Dusty Symonds). Miranda Fair will be on hand to perform, clairvoyant medium Patricia will peek into her ball and Dusty Springfield impersonator Maureen Elkner will perform. All of the artists will be donating a work of art to be auctioned off, and a charity raffle will also be held.

I think it’s very important that we all give back to the community, Phillips said. I think that there’s not enough of it. I find that I’ve been running around trying to get donations from local businesses and I do find that the gay-owned or gay-staffed businesses tend to help a bit more. I’m getting a fairly good response from local businesses, because it is a community, and you have to give back.

The launch party will be held from 3pm to 8pm and everyone’s invited. Visit Queer As Flowers at 430 King Street, Newtown, phone 9557 8992 for more information or visit www.queerasflowers.com.au.

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