Heaps Gay: Returns to The Lass
Get ready for a good, good night! Bri Porter chats with the creator and founder of Heaps Gay, Kat Dopper
As part of the Great Southern Nights Festival, Heaps Gay is back at The Lass for one night only. After a nine-month long hiatus due to COVID-19, creator and founder, Kat Dopper, is bringing Heaps Gay back to Newcastle on Thursday 19th of November. The event will feature a long list of musicians, performers, DJ’s, and artists. Following the COVID-19 current restrictions, it will be a sit-down event and will adhere to social distancing measures. The ticketed event goes from 7pm until midnight.
Kat Dopper, 39, is the creator and founder behind the popular queer parties. Heaps Gay is a community dedicated to creating all-inclusive events, experiences and charity support to the LGBTQ+ community. While there are no specific LGBTQ+ bars in Newcastle, Heaps Gay is the perfect addition to the city providing a safe space for members and allies of the community.
Dopper moved to London in her 20’s which was a pivotal transformation era for her and what first sparked her creativity behind Heaps Gay. While she spent the majority of her life in country town Condobolin and then Sydney, she never felt she connected with the party scene at the time. After feeling like there was something missing, she made the leap to London where she began to find herself in spaces, and started to fully embrace her sexuality. In East London, Dopper recalls stumbling upon a dodgy old pub named The George and Dragon, it was inclusive, colourful, and queer. It smelt, the toilet doors were falling off, the floor was sticky. However, every person was welcoming and there was finally a sense of “home” for Dopper. “I really found myself there and remember thinking ‘What is this heavenly place?’” she said.
The idea of Heaps Gay was born when Dopper moved back to Sydney and was sitting around a table with a group of friends at a barbeque, when she recalls one of them suggesting she just make her own event. As they were all suggesting names for the event, one friend shouted, “Heaps Gay!”, causing everyone to laugh. Dopper thought that idea was brilliant, seeing it as an opportunity to transform the meaning of the derogatory comment “gay” and force people to rethink it into meaning something more positive.
Heaps Gay differentiates itself from other usual parties or clubs. It’s all about the people.
“You know when you go to your friend’s house party and you’re having a good time and have no inhibitions, you’re just happy to talk to whoever you want to talk to. I think that’s the energy you get at a heaps gay party,” Dopper says.
No matter what, Dopper ensures you’re bound to have a fun time at a Heaps Gay event. “The energy you get off each other is a nice feeling. I always say that vibe creates a party and you get a vibe from the people that are there.”
Dopper is a queer woman herself. During our interview, she was open about her own coming out story. She laughs claiming that her coming out story was a “late” one that happened in her late 20s. Living in the busyness of London for a few years, Dopper recalls sitting her younger sister Suzie down, who came out a few years earlier, to confide in her about her confusion of being in love with her straight female best friend. When Dopper finally arrived back home in Australia, she wanted to tell her parents in person. “I was in a truck, we were driving and I just said something like, Mum I don’t think I like boys, and she’s like, oh Kat, I don’t like boys either, laughing and not understanding what I meant. So I said, no… I don’t like–like boys,” laughed Dopper. She pauses and reflects on her story, “I think I’m lucky because I’m a femme identifying woman which makes it easier for me in society, I’ve got privilege in that way as opposed to somebody else so I’m very grateful for that. I’m lucky that I haven’t had much adversity in comparison to other people in our community,” she says. Dopper’s positive outlook is highlighted as she acknowledges “I think society is getting better with accepting.”
Heaps Gay was first established in 2013 and holds events all over major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and in particular, has been an incredibly successful monthly event, since 2018 at The Lass in Newcastle.
Seven years on, Heaps Gay is still a success. “I never would have dreamed that it would become a bloody business,” she said. The reason why it is a huge ongoing success can be linked to Dopper’s authenticity.
“I’ve always been myself. I’ve always been this bogan Condo kid and I’ve never tried to be someone else,”
Dopper gains satisfaction from her events. The reason she loves what she does is because she can witness the instant gratification from the events. “You get to see it on their faces. I really value the change that it is making for people and the community. I find that really special,” she says. Not every person gets to say they created something that brings frequent joy to other peoples lives. “It keeps me going,” she adds.
Dopper has not been shy about her ambition. At a young age, she was a multitalented child who learnt to embrace each opportunity that came her way. She recalls a pivotal moment in her life that shaped who she is today. Back in her country hometown Condobolin, her drama teacher told her to “always say yes in life,” and she has lived by it ever since. She refers to herself as a “glass being half full,” kind of girl. “To be honest, lots of great things haven’t come from saying yes,” she admits. “There’s been projects that I’ve worked on and that have failed,”. But most important Dopper says “You can’t focus on that you can only focus on the positives.”
Dopper’s list of achievements is extensive, showcasing working as a former radio presenter on FBi radio for four years covering LGBTQ+ culture and raising awareness. From August 2019 until March 2020 Dopper worked as the creative director for the 2020 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. “It was a crazy experience. It was a whirlwind and a challenge, but inspiring and insane,” she adds.
Dopper recalls going to the Mardi Gras parade for the first time when she was only 17 years old. She’d stand on top of milk crates for hours just to get a glimpse of the colourful and lively parade. Mardi Gras was one of her favourite times of the year. She never dreamed that she would be working with them.
“Being in and working for Mardi Gras is bigger than you. You have to see it as being a caretaker for an organisation that has been running for 42 years,” For Dopper it was all about what can she “do to make it better.”
Heaps Gay: Newcastle Edition is a one-of-a-kind event that is not to be missed. Tickets available here.
Feature Image courtesy of Heaps Gay