Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tropical Fruits- Lismore Queer - INTERVIEWS

Interview- Brett Paradise, November 2004

If Tropical Fruits, the Lismore based Queers events organisation were a drink, it would probably be a flamboyant mango daiquiri laced with bananas, strawberries, lashings of white spirits, served in a pineapple, garnished with a huge red hibiscus flower and a hot pink flamingo swizzle stick. Drinks that make you troppo too will be flowing from the bars at this summer’s fruitiest New Years Eve event as the pretty young dance party turns “Sweet Sixteen”.

The Northern Rivers district has never been the same since a group of feisty funsters unleashed their madness, mayhem and pulsating music onto the lashings of local queers from hill and dale, and for 16 years seduced waves of dance party émigrés from Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and overseas. Tropical Fruits is a party like no other and recent competitors haven’t been able to simulate nor mimic, the true spirit that has made this organisation a fruitilicious cornerstone in the city-centric national queer events calendar.

Tropical Fruits is feted for its New Years Eve fanfares of frivolous festivities, frantic dancing and feast of flesh from feral to fetishy to fastidious (not too mention the troppo “play” tents, very carnivalesque!). It is well known to locals as the quintessential organisation with its finger on the pulse of queer, a pulse that crosses the divide of town, country and coastal. To many city slicker southerners like me it came as huge surprise and great joy to discover that Tropical Fruits is more than just a New Years Eve party.

After ten years of saying, “One day, I'm going to a Tropical Fruits party”; I was finally doing it. Hard Labour at Repentence Creek is a signature local’s event. It felt like the night before Christmas when I was five years old. For the first time in eons I felt like a party virgin again, my goosebumps had goosebumps. I knew it wouldn’t be the Hordern or Shed 14 or the Brisbane RNA grounds, I knew it would be hybrid, I knew it would be flagrant, fragrant even and very different.

I was staying at a friend’s sprawling Dunoon homestead, a bed and breakfast haven. After feeding our friend’s dogs, mulching the veggie garden, turning the compost heap I had a long soothing soak in an outdoor bath steeped in essential oils beneath the sparkling Southern Cross, amidst the waft of jasmine. We burned some Nag Champa incense, donned our glad rags, quiffed our Mohawks, tied up our ponytails, strapped on our chaps and frocked up to the funk on the CD player. Phew, it’s hard work getting ready for Hard Labour!

We hit the dirt roads that were more like rocky goat tracks, where all road signs seem to lead to Mullumbimby. We found our way to the quaint local hall transformed by lights, thumping sounds and a gaggle of party go-getters. We found a cranking convergence of eclectic queers, awestruck tourists and eager seachangers. The Byron hinterland is transformative. Repentance Creek is awesomely different.

One this summery eve of the imminent and dreaded federal election, the ghosts from the hall’s decades of country-dances, balls, Christian RSL meets and local’s fetes boogied on the old wooden boards with all and sundry Homo’s. Men, women, young and young at heart who lived for one night like there was no tomorrow.

We were set adrift in an alchemical sea of people from Lismore, Bangalow, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and foreign shores who were vibed and peachy keen to meet, greet, wax magical and bust moves in the lush tropical foothills of the Byron hills. The air, spiked with eucalypt, tea tree and spring wildflowers made it even more magical. We were spiked with a verdant glee. If Hard Labour at Repentence Creek is anything to go by New Years Eve is gonna rock, lick, swish, sashay, salt, gulp troppo! Happy New Year!!

Tropical Fruits Unpeeled
Interview- Brett Paradise

How did Tropical Fruits begin?

It started all very humbly sixteen years ago. Two guys, two girls and a bottle of very nice gin met at a pub in Ballina and thought up the name The Tropical Fruits for a new local social group. They wanted to create a newsletter that would let everyone know what was happening around the region. So began the Fruit Juice Newsletter. The troppo mayhem had started.

At first it was small parties and dinners at locals houses and “friendly” restaurants. The very first organised party was at Broken Head Community Hall (near the now famous, no, infamous Kings Beach).

How is Tropical Fruits different to the usual suspects?

Being a smaller community gives us a much stronger sense of family. As a family we love visits from our distant relatives and always go out of our way to make everyone feel at home. Unlike capital cities, the money, the venues and the infrastructure aren’t here. If we want to get together and have a good time as only the GLBTI community can we needed to create it ourselves. Volunteers put in incredible amounts of effort to create opportunities for us to party. We have also been lucky to have a very diverse community with a good balance of women and men. Although many of us are all for the capital cities, time in the country makes for a more relaxed and friendly attitude to life.

Tropical Fruits today?

The survival of Fruits is dependent on being able to change and develop as the communities do. We are also focused on encouraging and supporting our community into development. It is certainly a fact that many of us, who have since become “locals”, were attracted to this region largely because of the existence of Fruits. So our focus is really to create opportunities for our community to get together, to party, to relax, to grow and socialise. We want to focus on doing what we do well and try not out growing beyond our local communities needs and wants.

In December we will be opening our new office in Lismore. We have found a great space that will give us the ability to have a clubhouse. A Community centre that people can come by for a cuppa, a chat and information. We are calling it “The Fruit Bowl”. Already we have yoga, art and interest groups starting and soon hope to have free computer and Internet access for members.

Tropical Fruits is more than a terrific New Years Eve Party?

We are well known for the New Year’s Parties, but anyone that is a true Fruit will tell you their favourite parties are at Repentance Creek hall in the Byron hinterland. A quaint little country is the venue for a dance experience you’ll never forget. This year our Easter weekend and October Labour Day (NSW) were both at Repentance Creek.

We try lots of different venues so it’s always best to check our web site to check the where and when of our next event. Throughout the years we have organised dinners, BBQs, picnics, fair, trivia, skating, live bands; the list goes on….

Lismore has become the spiritual hometown for Tropical fruits, Why is this?

Lismore is the biggest town in the region from Grafton to Tweed. It’s quite central in the Northern Rivers, so everyone comes to Lismore at some point whether they like it or not. Many of our members are in the Northern Rivers Region but many more are from all over Australian and quite a few international members, most of these members visit the region regularly for various reasons. Tropical Fruits has survived because the community wants it enough to work for it. Its future has looked bleak a few times over the years, but when faced with the possibility of it all disappearing forever, the family come through and made it stronger again.

Who are your brother and sister groups?

We are trying to support any non-profit organizations that are in the interest of the GLBTI community. This year we made links with The Young Lions, a gay and lesbian youth group set up in Murwillumbah. We donated money to send them down to Mardi Gras this year. We have also a close relationship with the local Radical Faeries.

Really we’ll support any event of group that is of interest to the GLBTI community. That is that it is supportive of or community in some way or provides a service that our members appreciate. We certainly aren’t about to support anything that’s just about making money.

NYE 2005?

It’s our second year at the Lismore showground in 2005, so that has meant that this year we are going into it with a little more knowledge about what to expect. Last year all of those involved organising and volunteering did an amazing job putting together a party that ended up being the biggest GLBTI party in Australia. We truly didn’t see that coming. What was most impressive from our point of view was that although some people were working for many hours, days or even weeks and were at time stretched very thin we never broke and everyone thought all the work was worthwhile at the end.

If you were impressed earlier this year, 2005 will blow your mind. (If not your mind, then hopefully something else...). We won’t give away all of the surprises in store for party goers, but to wet your appetite, let’s just say that midnight will not be missed by anybody!

This year we are holding Carnivalesque, an art exhibition event at the show grounds. If you need a break from the three packed dance spaces you can take a wander into the showground art and craft pavilion and revel in some our talented queer artists’ work. You can vote for your favourite talent and give then a chance at the $500 prize money.

The camping area at the showground is really going to take off this year. It’s like a little camp village that just pops up out of nowhere. Yes, there are showers and toilets.

In previous years the fabulous after party was at the Winsome Hotel in Lismore, but sadly the Winsome is no more. Luckily we have scored a great venue even closer to the showground. At 6 am you can take a short stroll or if your legs won’t carry you an even short bus trip to the Australian Italo Club to wind down or keep dancing until 11am.

This year a free BBQ and funk band will tantalise the showground from 3pm until 6pm and then we start the beats with DJ’s until the wee hours.

Ticket sales so far?
Tickets are selling quicker than last year already. Most of the early bookings are coming from furthest away, the U.S., Canada, Europe, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. All signs are that is going to be another big unforgettable NYE night so we suggest you get in early.

No comments: