Throughout the 1970s the Star Hotel linking Hunter and King Streets in the notorious west-end of Newcastle gained a reputation internationally for its flamboyant nightlife and heterogenous mix of masculine cultures. Divided into three distinct bars, The Star Hotel became the centre for sailors, bikers and queers all celebrating counter-culture in a conservative and introverted Australian city. The three bars were divided by makeshift lattice walls separating the three bars, which, over time, eroded to allow the three demographics to merge with each other in an environment of tolerance and mutual acceptance. The late 1970s saw not only the eviction of the homosexual crowd from the hotel through the notorious “Pub with No Queers” campaign but also, soon after, the closure of the hotel itself by authorities resulting in the famous Star Hotel Riot which made international news and is still heavily associated with the city. The cultural conditions connecting the riot and the notorious venue are complex and heavily associated with themes of sexual identity, authority and spatial demarcation. They provide an interesting starting point for exploring the evolution of queer space in Newcastle.This paper will look at the relationship between the Star Hotel and broader themes of queer space in the city. By focussing on the Star as an icon both of and against homosexuality in Newcastle in the 1970s the paper will look at the historical evolution of spatially located and demarcated zones for homosexual activity in Newcastle, their relationship to authority and, in particular, their role in the infamous riot. The broader themes of queer space at the Star Hotel will be explored through an unbuilt architectural project that commemorates the heroes of the Star Hotel riot and explores the notion of queer space by activating the memories embodied in the now ailing institution.
Queer Space: Centres and Peripheries. Conference Proceedings - Queer Space: Centres and Peripheries (Sydney 20-21 February, 2007) p. 1-6