Frocks, freedom – and a legend reborn


To say The Imperial Erskineville has a storied past is like pointing out that drag queens are partial to frocks. This dame has lived – and then some.

If the walls could talk, they wouldn’t. They’d sing. And they’d probably belt out I’ve Never Been to Me, the ballad that launched The Imperial’s movie career when Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce lip-synced it in drag in the Front Bar in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

That was 1993, and The Imperial was already a platform for Sydney’s finest drag performance, with many stage legends starting their careers here. Throughout the eighties, the venue had evolved into a sanctuary for the LGBTQI community, shining out as a beacon of love and liberation when safe spaces were perilously few.

Over the years, this playground and its parade of stars have been woven into the fabric of Sydney (with added sequins), and now it’s time for the next act in the Imperial’s glittering show.

Reopened on the fortieth anniversary of Mardi Gras, to honour forty years of love and protest for LGBTQI equality, The Imperial Erskineville has been restored to her former glory by owners Fraser Short (The Sydney Collective) and Scott Leach (The Rose of Australia). Paying tribute to the building’s art deco heritage with retro-inspired furnishings accented with gorgeous performance and drag elements, the reborn Imperial is a platform for new talent – both on and off the stage. Most importantly, this is a safe space of inclusiveness, where difference is honoured and all are welcome.


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