If Sydney’s gay scene was plotted along a life-line, the 1960s could be called its coming of age.

It was then, according to a new book by the Pride History Group, that gay men started emerging from their dark places, and creating Sydney’s biggest, liveliest and most regular dance scene.

The history of places like The Jewel Box, Sydney’s first All Male Revue, Kandy’s Garden of Eden, the Purple Onion Coffee Shop -“ where Sunday was the camps’ night and coffee was rarely served -“ and Chez Ivy’s were the birthplaces and nurseries of drag culture in Sydney.

Camp Nites, Sydney’s Emerging Drag Scene In The ’60s has been a labour of love for the Pride History Group, who interviewed key identities and collected their oral histories, before compiling them into an entertaining and fascinating 24-page book.

We managed to interview people like David Williams, Ken Kandy Johnson -“ a large number of people, Pride History Group secretary John Witte said.

We thought we need to get these oral histories out into the public.

With a $3,000 grant from the City of Sydney and a team of dedicated volunteers, they did just that.

Camp Nites is the first of a series of historical texts about Sydney’s early gay scene. The next one will be on Sydney social groups of the 50s and 60s, followed by a history of the early Mardi Gras movement.

But Witte stressed there were more people to be interviewed, and more volunteers needed.

For Camp Nites we just headed for the top people who were managers or performers, but there are plenty of performers and movers and shakers around town who still need to be interviewed, he said.

We really need people to come out and help with the interviewing and help with the writing.


Camp Nites is on sale now at The Bookshop Darlinghurst and Cross Books for $8.

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