Delve into our local queer history with ‘The Lion Never Sleeps’

A uniquely queer performance is taking audiences through the streets of Northbridge, taking a closer look at local LGBTIQ+ history.

The Lion Never Sleeps is described as a walking performance by creator Noemie Huttner-Koros, tracing the spaces and places where Perth’s queer community have danced and gathered.

We asked Huttner-Koros a little bit about the work ahead of its run at the Fringe World festival this week.

How did this work come about?

Last year I was really fortunate to do an emerging queer artist lab through Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Propel Youth Arts and Perth Festival.

We connected with an amazing artist based in LA called Cassils who presented a work at Perth Festival last year called Becoming an Image (which totally changed my life, I saw it and helped build it and was completely shaken by the scale and passion in the work).

Cassils questioned all of us artists in the lab a lot about what the queer community was like in Perth and if we as young people knew our history and what our elders had fought for. That was the seed of the idea and then I started talking and walking with legends of Perth’s queer community and was so blown away by the stories they were sharing with me, the places we visited that I knew I had to turn it into something that I could then share with the rest of our community.

I also wanted to create a ‘love letter’ of sorts to the places that had supported me coming out and learning about queerness. I didn’t grow up in Perth but this was the first place where I felt I could explore all these parts of me and I’m so grateful for that.

Where did the research begin – who did you reach out to?

I first reached out to some folks I knew, artists Janet Carter and Claire Bushby and then they introduced me to their networks and it kind of grew from there. I did a lot of reading and watching films about the AIDS epidemic too. But the focus was really on folks here in Perth and the best way to find that out was just sitting down with people, having a cup of tea and talking for hours!

Were there any unexpected surprised when delving into our local history?

Yeah heaps! Learning about the Gay Olympics run by GAGS (Gay Activities Group) was super fun. It was a fundraiser for the queer community and they had some hilarious events like The Handbag Toss! Local legend Holly Wood (who has passed away) but needs to be spoken about a lot for all the amazing work he did here in Perth.

Someone told me that the Noongar name for Russell Square (on James St in Northbridge) is Bunji Park which means ‘looking for sex’, and is also a place where people would cruise a lot…

What are the most notable changes over the years? Would you say things have, overall, gotten “better”?

I think in a lot of ways things have gotten better. (Maybe I’m the wrong person to ask this because I wasn’t around back then so this is more my opinion and what I’ve learnt from the people I’ve spoken with). We have more language to talk about sex and gender and people can come out as kids and young people, yay!

HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence that it was back in the 80s and early 90s. But I think in some ways we’ve lost some of the magic from that time and the sense of community that was created, we’ve lost some amazing venues like The Red Lion (on Aberdeen St) and some venues that were queer safe spaces like The Court are being compromised.

And I think there is some scary conservative backlashes going on and we need to be aware of that, and as the world gets warmer and more hostile, continue the work that our queer grandparents did for so many years.

In taking part in this shared history, what do you hope people take away from The Lion Never Sleeps?

I hope people have a really fun time walking and performing with us and see Northbridge in a different light. There are so many layered histories of a place (this is just one version) and that people continue being curious about the places and spaces they live.

The Lion Never Sleeps is running until Saturday 1st February. For tickets and more information head to fringeworld.com.au

Leigh Andrew Hill


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