The Broken Heel Festival Take Over The Imperial

Bringing the Diva’s of the Desert to the City


10 weeks and counting down until Sydney turns full rainbow and we celebrate the 42nd annual Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, an internationally famous event that recognises LGBTQ+ diversity and pride in Australia and beyond.

Making this season’s program extra FAB-ulous are the team from the Broken Heel Festival, who will be taking over The Impy for a night. This week we spoke to drag queen, social lubricator and glamourous host of the BHF, the marvelous Miss Philmah Bocks!

Hey Philmah! For the folks at home, can you tell us about the Broken Heel Festival and how you came to be involved?

Hi darlings! So Broken Heel is a celebration of drag, divas and disco in the desert! It was spawned 5 years ago by the creator Esther La Rovere, who is also one of the co-owners of the Palace Hotel , in Broken Hill, the far west outback of NSW [a key location to the shooting of Priscilla; Queen of the Desert].

They were celebrating the Priscilla QOTD’s cinematic release as it was the 21st anniversary and they threw a little party for her in the form of a 3-day festival.

My drag sister Art Simone and I stumbled across the event, quite by accident – in fact it was one of those planet-aligning moments. We went to the very first one, it was raw and rough, but it was so so fabulous! We saw something in it, a little sparkle, a little diamond in the desert. We knew we were onto something amazing and here we are 5 years later, still partying…”
Photo of 7 performers dressed as drag queens and kings, posing flamboyantly in the middle of a desert road

Why do you think the festival is such a phenomenon?

“I believe it’s a chance for people to express themselves in a way that perhaps they haven’t had an opportunity to do before. It’s such an inclusive festival, we have a very broad range of ages, genders, preferences, cultures, races – you name it, it’s a melting pot of diversity.

And to some people it reminds them of when Mardi Gras [Sydney] was first kicking off, around the late 80s-early 90s when people from all walks of life were coming together and creating something special. They still do that now, but because of its location and roots, our festival is still quite intimate.

You can actually get a sense of what that means by participating: getting dressed up to the nines and celebrating your inner diva. I think that’s what draws people to it year after year.”
Photo of a parade float with drag performers waving to crowd, and a photo of four people dressed colourfully in a park

The BHF has a wonderful sense of community, what do you love most about your wider Broken Heel family?

“That’s a really good point, it’s very much about community and we really recognise and celebrate that in our performances. We have a lot of queer friendly, queer orientated and queer content and that is predominantly represented through the art of drag – in all of its facets: drag queens, drag kings, bio queens, showgirls, divas, Les Girls… you name it.

In terms of family, this is one of the few chances that we all get to perform and celebrate together and we work very hard throughout the 3, and now 5-day long event. Between us sisters there’s such a wonderful feeling backstage, none of the audience get to feel that energy – or maybe they do sense it when we’re onstage having fun!

Ultimately though, the backstage is where the bonds of sisterhood and the relationships form, because we’re in this special place, doing something we love together.”
Three drag queens dressed as characters from the movie Priscillas: Queen of the Desert, standing on stage

You’re taking over The Imperial, another home of Priscilla on Mardi Gras Eve 2020 – what can guests expect from this event?

“Taking over The Imperial – how could we not! After all it’s our sister venue: The Imperial Hotel and the Palace Hotel are sisters, because they both feature so heavily in Priscilla and despite the distance between them [1,142km] they’re so alike in many ways, especially in what they represent to both Priscilla fans and the wider LGBTQ community.

With Mardi Gras 2020 approaching we touched base with the team at The Imperial and asked if they’d have us and we were welcomed with open arms. So it’s a coming together of the two worlds, like a mini Broken Heel at The Imperial and celebrating with her; this beautiful iconic building and such gorgeous staff inside to welcome us home.

And talking about sisterhood we’ve got a family there, so it feels right. It feels good to bring a sample of all the girls that take part in the festival, and perform our Priscilla Tribute Show, having taken the reins from the gorgeous Mitzi MacIntosh. She ran that show for so many years and is one of the reasons The Imperial has such an incredible history of drag, she kept the spirit of Priscilla alive.

We’re also looking forward to meeting all of you! Getting out into the audience and mingling with the crowd, we love that because it’s essentially what the Broken Heel Festival is about. Any opportunity to get out and meet people, say hello to the fans and give back to the lovers of drag is what builds a strong community.”
Pink graphic design with black text "Broken Heel Imperial" with four drag queens wearing pink and posing

Meet Philmah Bocks and some of her Broken Heel fam (Art Simone, Jemima Handful, Maude Boate, Vonni, Kita Mean, Anita Wiglit, Jojo Zaho and Felicia Foxx) at their Mardi Gras Eve takeover: Friday 28 February Basement Party. Tickets on sale now PURCHASE TICKETS

Official tickets to the 2020 Broken Heel Festival are now on sale, the 5 day festival takes place from 10-14 September. Tickets and the full line up are available on their WEBSITE 


All photos in this blog post are owned by The Broken Heel Festival.