As the classic Australian Film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert approaches its 30th anniversary in 2024, people from one outback town, pivotal in the movie’s storyline, have embarked on their own road trip to convince the rest of the world to come to the heart of Australia and celebrate the milestone.
Alice Springs, a town of just 28,000 people that sits in almost the exact centre of Australia, midway between Darwin and Adelaide and some 1,200 kilometres from the nearest ocean, is where the tour bus “Priscilla” ends up in the worldwide hit movie.
This is why, the town now not only has the movie to thank for putting it on the map but also a wonderful new festival called FabAlice that is growing into one of the must-attend events on the calendar.
The 4-day festival from 7-10 March 2024 (Week after Mardi Gras), showcases comedy, cabaret, live music, community pageant and social activities whilst paying homage to this iconic cult movie and stage musical.
Stuart Ord the Chairperson of FabAlice and the one who concocted the idea of celebrating “Priscilla” in “Alice” spoke to Gay Nation at the launch of the 2024 Festival, which was held at the start of the journey at The Imperial Erskineville in Sydney.
Ord, originally from Melbourne, moved to Alice Springs in 2014 and was the catalyst behind the festival.
“I’ve worked in tourism most of my life and I got to Alice Springs on a contract and I could never understand why Alice Springs had never leveraged off Priscilla Queen of the Desert film because the bus started here and ended up in Alice Springs,” Ord explained.
“So I got a few people together and I said, listen, guys, this is crazy why don’t we create some sort of a festival to celebrate Priscilla Queen of the Desert?”
That was in 2018 and the festival has now run in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023 with the 2024 festival to not only be the 5th running of the event but on the 30th anniversary year.
The FabAlice committee, headed by Ord, is a strong mix from all parts of the local community including many straight allies with all offering something tangible they can bring to the table, not just a rainbow message to push.
“We’re not a Pride Festival,” Ord clarified, “We are based on the Priscilla Queen of the Desert film and we try and make that distinction that we’re not just another Pride festival.”
“The community is right behind this, the business community, the local council, the northern territory government through our major events group, they’re behind us and they put money in. So we’re pretty well supported and then we get people like Jaytex Construction and Qantas who have come on board to really help us.”
You can tell the town of Alice Springs has seeped into Ord’s blood and he is passionate when he talks about the community and their acceptance of the rainbow community, even when things are a little tough.
“Alice Springs is such a beautiful unknown location for a lot of Australians,” Ord continued.
“It’s got the whole cultural surrounds which are just amazing with the indigenous communities. It’s got the most amazing natural environment in the desert. It’s got a community feel that’s just like nothing else.
“We had a particularly bad Christmas period [last year] where it was a little bit feral but the police are getting on top of that and it’s not the kids’ fault but the kids come into town from the communities, they come in, they’ve got nothing to do.
“But the community is working on that, the police are working on that significantly. It’s a very safe location, especially for our festival because our sites where we have our events are all safe and secure.”
Ord said Alice Springs has the highest percentage of lesbians per head of population in Australia which leads to a greater acceptance of rainbow people and issues than in many other regional a remote towns.
“We have a lot of kids who are dealing with their sexuality and we help them by having workshops and we get the kids and we get the drag queens to come and talk with the kids and talk about their issues there.
“So we have the fun side of the festival and we have the serious social side of what we do as well.”
For 2024 the festival has gone all out to choose a lineup of artists as good as any regional festival in the country, but they are still under wraps. It has also some of the most stunning backdrops for events you can see including the Priscilla Under the Stars Festival Extravaganza Live from the Old Quarry.
This year the festival runs across four days and the opening night will be especially poignant for movie tragics as Lasseters Hotel Casino will open its very own Priscilla Bar and the opening will be followed by the movie screening and a show to follow.
Last Updated on Nov 15, 2023