Dr Kate discusses a recent and very significant acquisition of the State Library – a collection of 270 posters relating to Connections Nightclub – the longest running LGBT nightclub in the Southern Hemisphere.
Located at 81 James Street Northbridge, Connections Nightclub exists in a building that had originally been used as a cabaret club called The Top Hat. In 1975 it re-opened it as a gay nightclub. Tim Brown began managing the venue in 1991 and instigated the venue's rebranding by regularly redecorating it, including more diverse staffing and in diversifying the entertainment in the club.
Tim Brown recorded an oral history with Criena Fitzgerald in 2019. Tim speaks about his experiences of the club as a young gay man attending the club for the first time, as well as his growing involvement in it as a staff member, manager and then owner, and the steps he took to shift the club’s brand and image towards a more inclusive and welcoming space for all, including staffing and entertainment. Listen to the recordings or read the transcript of Tim Brown’s oral history.
A strong element of Connections’ legacy within the broader cultural scene of Perth and Northbridge is the music that is played at the club. Electronic and dance music has always had a strong link to various LGBTQIA+ communities as nightclubs have often been the spaces in which those communities have been able to safely gather and express themselves, and whilst Connections has championed musical movements and styles readily associated with queer culture, it has also incorporated broader trends in dance music culture into its soundtrack. This fluidity in terms of not only the musical breadth that the club music programming covers, but also the diversity of the entertainers who work in the club are arguably part of its success as an inclusive and welcoming space.
The acquisition of the Connections posters is a significant addition to the State Library ephemera collections. The Connections poster collection includes hand-drawn graphics, gritty photo-realism, slick digital art and a huge range of visual styles in-between. Similarly, the range of events captured in this sample epitomizes the club's ethos of diversity. Search for PS02423 on the State Library catalogue to see the full collection.
The State Library is determined to diversify its collections with the many voices and stories of the WA community. The collection currently holds few stories representing LGBTQIA + communities, and we'd like to call on you to help us rectify this by donating your photographs, videos, posters, flyers and other material to the collection. If you can help, contact us via our Collections Offers Form.
Recorded live on ABC Radio Perth on 24 November 2020.
BEGINNING OF INTERVIEW
Jess: We have got Dr Kate. We found Dr Kate and she’s on the line now. She’s got a treasure from the State Library and this week we’re flying the rainbow flag because it’s PrideFEST which is a state wide celebration of the LGBTQI+ community and Dr Kate has got a slice of history; a slice of queer history that’s come into the possession... you’ve come into the possession Dr Kate of some special posters I understand at the State Library. Tell us about them.
Dr Gregory: Hi Jess. Yes we have. This is a wonderful collection. 270 posters relating to Connections Nightclub which is, as many of your listeners will be aware, is the longest running gay and lesbian nightclub possibly in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s been going for sort of 45 years. So, the posters span this history and they offer a really significant glimpse into the history of Connections Nightclub and queer culture more broadly in Perth.
Jess: Where did you get the posters from? They were donated my understanding?
Dr Gregory: The wonderful Tim Brown who owns Connections Nightclub. Yes. He donated the collection and it includes sort of everything from hand drawn graphic posters to sort of photo realism to slick digital art and there’s a huge range of visual styles in-between and really they’re promoting all of the various kind of Connections Nightclub events that they’ve run over several decades. So, one of the oldest posters that we have in the collection is actually probably from the 1970s, late 1970s and it’s a beautiful kind of very iconic Connections image. It has got Connections Nightclub down the side with a silhouette of Michelangelo’s David but as well as that, we’ve also got photographs by WA artist Eva Fernandez who was obviously producing posters for Connections Nightclub. So, there’s a really rich range of material. It’s a really exciting collection.
Jess: If you are just tuning in, I’m with Battye Historian Dr Kate Gregory and she’s giving us a slice of Perth’s queer history. They’ve been donated at the Library, about 270 posters from Perth’s oldest gay and lesbian nightclub, Connections. It’s a well known spot in Northbridge and I understand you’ve taken an oral history down as well with the Connections owner Tim Brown. Can people listen to this online or do they need to come to the Library?
Dr Gregory: No, look I encourage everybody to have a look online. It’s really a beautiful oral history that we have with Tim Brown recorded last year and Tim managed Connections, took over the management in 1991 and he’s now the owner. And really over several decades, he’s had a really strong vision for Connections as an inclusive club and a really important venue for Perth queer culture, so it’s well worth having a listen online.
Jess: Does the Library have much Dr Kate in the way of, well I mean besides these 270 posters? What more have you got in terms of treasures and artefacts to mark the history of Western Australia’s LGBTIQ+ community and of course the many political fights that they would have been involved in over the years.
Dr Gregory: That’s right Jess. Well look, I think this collection from Connections Nightclub is certainly one of our treasures and it’s worth saying as well that really, this has been a real gap, a real absence in many of the States’ collections. So, it’s now a real focus to try and make sure that we address that gap in our collections and collect this history, this important contribution to WA history and culture and it’s worth noting as well that this is not just the State Library doing this. We can also see in the wonderful new museum a whole display on Connections Nightclub and also in the Art Gallery at the moment there’s a wonderful exhibition relating to the Connections Nightclub too. So, we’re all starting to think about how we... make sure that we’re doing this contemporary collecting... this capturing of some social history and of queer culture in the last few decades. It’s a really important point of focus.
Jess: You know you have arguably some pretty amazing posters and pictures from the big fight for marriage equality.
Dr Gregory: Marriage equality, that’s right. Yes we do. That’s right. So, we’ve got the marriage equality material but we’re always looking to collect more in this State so... yeah.
Jess: Dr Kate Gregory, before I let you go, question without notice. Did you graduate by any chance in 1991 from St Hilda’s?
Dr Gregory: Yes, I did. [laughs]
Jess: Someone has texted in to say that must be Kate Gregory that graduated from St Hilda’s in 1991, legend!
Dr Gregory: [Laughs]
Jess: [Laughs] There you go.
Dr Gregory: Well that’s right [Laughs].
Jess: [Laughs] what a lovely text. There you go legend! That legend is Dr Kate Gregory, Battye Historian with the State Library of Western Australia.
END OF INTERVIEW