Mel Fitzpatrick, also known as DJ Feisty, spent a considerable amount of her time from around 19 years old frequenting Oxford Street venues and events as a punter and professional DJ. She was a co-founder with Mandy Rollins of Extra Dirty, a party night which started in 2008, firstly at Sydney’s iconic underground venue Phoenix. The party continues today in various venues. Mel talks about how she came to DJing, starting Dirty, the earlier machination of Extra Dirty, while working as a high school teacher during the week.
Oxford Street was known as the ‘Golden Mile’ where queer venues and cafes were open at all hours of the day and night. Mel points out the significant changes in the Oxford Street culture around the time of the 2014 lockout laws. They reflect on the impact of the big parties like Mardi Gras, Sleeze and Hand in Hand and the changes in the queer club scene.
Mel recalls the death and legacy of Mandy Rollins in 2010 who was an iconic figure in the Oxford Street queer scene.
Probably the first lesbian club night I went to was a Wednesday night at the Freezer on Oxford Street. Now I’m pretty sure it was called Girl Bar and I used to go there. By this stage I was working as a teacher and I had to go to work the next day, so that would finish at 3 o’clock in the morning and we’d stay until pretty late and then go to work the next day.
The music I loved. By that stage I already really loved house music and the early hip hop stuff and so there was a lot of that being played and I loved it. And Mardi Gras, was literally dragging people out of the clubs and saying, “Come on, we need to do this.” At that time it was very exciting. It was really exciting.
We’d go to the big parties together. We’d go to Mardi Gras and Sleaze and Hand in Hand was in winter on the long weekend in June. But Oxford Street – you’d go to the Oxford with the boys. I went to the Shift with them. We’d got to the Green Park Diner to have breakfast.
I guess with the girls I did different things on Oxford Street which was going to Kinselas and – well the Freezer first and then Kinselas, the Gigi and Andrea’s nights and of course they then moved to NV later on and they were fantastic nights. They were brilliant. It was just a massive packed room full of women and it felt very liberating and, you know, back in the ‘90s, because I’m talking I guess through the middle ‘90s and towards the later ‘90s, it was – a lot was happening. Our community was coming together because of the AIDS crisis, HIV. We were losing a lot of our boyfriends. You’d open the Star Observer and it was all print back then and there’d be pages and pages of, you know, memorials every week. Gut wrenching. You’d look through them to see who you knew. So that brought the community together.
(Interviewer Dr. Sophie Robinson) Yeah, and it seemed to make activists out of a lot of just gay and lesbian people that were otherwise, you know, just going to clubs and things but suddenly they were fundraising for…
And Mardi Gras was doing that too – literally dragging people out of the clubs and saying, “Come on, we need to do this.” At that time it was very exciting. It was really exciting.
You felt like your community had your back, …. Drew a lot of strength I think from that.
(Interviewer Dr. Sophie Robinson) Yeah, and the visibility of Oxford Street as well as a sort of gay and lesbian space.
There were lots of shops and clubs and bars and everyone had the gay flag out and, you know, whether it was Mardi Gras or not, it was the gay mile.