History of the Queen’s Birthday Ball Awards
The first Queens Ball was modelled upon a similar gay function held at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and it was appropriate that Mt Tambourine be the Brisbane equivalent.
The ball was held there from 1961 until 1971 attracting considerable number of participants from Brisbane and the Gold Coast. By the 70’s the Mt Tambourine show hall was too small and a new venue was needed.
The 1972 ball was held at Mudgeeraba and is remembered by the fact that the ball goers managed to drink Wallaby Bob’s Hotel dry. A feat not achieved before or since.
The party moved to the Nunda RSL hall for the 12th 13th & 14th balls (1973-75). For many these where regarded as the halcyon years. Fabulous dances when Carol Lloyd And The Railroad Gin Singers began to make their mark.
The 15th ball in 1976 was held at Wanganui Gardens at Yeronga but this also proved to be too small so the 16th 17th & 18th balls (1977-79) where held at the Hacienda Hotel in Fortitude Valley – fondly remembered by many as a great gay and lesbian venue.
In 1980 the 19th ball moved to the Homestead Hotel at Zillmere, but this was too far out of the city. Ever since then the ball has had a more central location.
The 20th 21st & 22nd balls (1981-83) where held at Whispers nightclub in Brunswick Street and the 23rd & 24th back at the Hacienda Hotel in 1984 and 1985.
Next came 25th Silver Anniversary ball to the 29th ball. These where held at The Roxy in Brunswick Street. The Roxy was a great venue with 2 levels and able to accommodate 2000 people.
Regular performer and stalwart of the Queens Ball, Dame Sybil Thorndyke said “In the 60s & 70s everybody knew everybody – then there was the Roxy Years. One of these years perhaps 1988, when after cleaning up back stage I came out of the spiral staircase and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The venue was packed to the rafters and all I could see where young people. That was the year the younger generation discovered the ball. It was most exciting.”
In 1991 the Queens Ball or QBB (Queens Birthday Ball) shifted back to the Manhatten and in 1992 the 31st was held in the Wool Pavilion at the RNA showgrounds. Some still remember the bomb scare and Gracie upon a pure white horse. This was also the first time the Queensland Aids Council and the Aids council of NSW became involved in the ball.
In 1993 the 32nd ball was held in the New Manhatten and in 94-95 the 33rd and 34th balls where back at The Roxy.
1996 saw a brief change when the ball took up residence at the Convention Centre, which also included a parade from Spring Hill.
From 1997 to 2000 the ball moved back at the RNA showgrounds – this time in the Johan Reid Pavilion.
2001 was the 40th Anniversary Ball (the Ruby ball) in the Horticultural Hall as was the 41st and the event was now organised by Skypak Lighting.
The 42nd 43rd & 44th balls (2003-2006) where held at the Arena complex (the old Roxy). By this time the Queens Birthday Ball (and the Arena) had lost much of it’s glamour. Numbers where dwindling and a growing number of patrons attended for the dance party content and not the awards ceremony. The days of big gay and lesbian dance parties appeared to be over.
In 2007 Skypak joined forces with the Sportsman hotel to present the 46th and 47th Queens Ball (minus the awards presentation) at the Stockman’s Bar at the RNA showgrounds, however these functions proved to be financially unviable. The Queens Birthday Ball was subsequently taken over by Brisbane Pride Festival.
The 48th Queens Ball in 2009 (now under the direction of the Brisbane Pride Festival) was held at the Judith Wright Centre Of Contemporary Arts and saw the return of the awards ceremony.
The next ball (the 49th) was very small affair held in the function room at St Pauls Tavern in 2010. With the Brisbane Pride Festival struggling it looked like Queens Ball was in serious trouble, but with a new committee and tireless work from many volunteers, things turned around.
The 50th Annual Queens Birthday Ball (2011) with a theme of Gold was held at the opulent Cloudland and celebrated the Queens Ball first half century in fabulous style. Great stage performances and glittering costumes helped to celebrate the camp side of the gay and lesbian world and the phenomena of drag, which still thrives in Brisbane’s commercial scene.
The 51st Ball moved to the Tivoli in a flurry of big hair and leather jackets with the theme of The 1950s. For the first time, patrons could choose to be ferried from various gay venues in a stretch hummer and be greeted at the event by a photographer, paparazzi style. It also saw increased recognition of the trans members of our community as well as the obligatory drag shows.
The Ball returned to Cloudland in 2013 in a Cabaret-themed spectacular. Hosted by Deeje Hancock in his last Queen’s Ball as President, it was a black tie affair which well and truly cemented Queen’s Ball as a premier event on the community calendar.