Friday, July 17, 2015

Karangahape Road Girl's Club

women at the KG Club 1974
KG Club (1974)
Karangahape Road Girl's Club

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Opened: 1971

Closed: 1979?

From a piece called Queen City: A Secret History of Auckland:

And who remembers the KG Club – the Karangahape Road Girl’s Club or the Kamp Girls Club? It was New Zealand’s first ever lesbian social club, founded by Raukura Te Aroha “Bubs” Hetet, in late 1971. It met in a variety of private homes before opening in Beach Road and then moving to the corner of Karangahape Road and Hereford Street, where it had a sterling reputation for boisterous parties.

And also from New Zealand or Bust:

Here’s what I’ve found out about the KG Club, or Kamp Girls Club, one of the first, if not the first, lesbian social clubs in New Zealand.

Queer people in New Zealand did not begin to regularly describe themselves as “gay” until the 1970s. Prior to that, queers used the word “kamp.“ The term comes from the acronym used by Australian police to label gay men “Known As Male Prostitute.” Despite its negative roots, "kamp” was embraced by gay men and lesbians in Australia and then in New Zealand. Usage continued into the 1970s.

By the late 1960s, lesbian social culture had the right ingredients to thrive. Kamp women recognized cities as the best places to meet other women and as more people moved to urban areas, public kamp communities formed. News of the fight for gay liberation and information about lesbian clubs abroad inspired New Zealand lesbians to organize. Sports such as hockey and softball became very popular among kamp women, bringing teams and fans together to socialize.

To meet the needs of this blossoming culture, the Kamp Girls Club was established in late 1971 as a social club meeting in private homes in Auckland. One of the women who hosted the club at her house tells her story in Alison J. Laurie’s doctoral thesis. Raukura (Bubs) Te Aroha Hetet’s group of kamp women got together to sing, play guitars, eat and drink. Bubs soon established the first rented location for the KG Club in 1972 on Karangahape Road.

Lesbians met at the Kamp Girls Club after sports games or to attend dances in this women-only space. There was even a newsletter for the patrons, named after the club, published in 1977 and 1978.

Documentary-style fine art photographer, Fiona Clark, who has photographed many points of queer cultural significance, snapped some shots in 1974 (including the above image).
women at the KG Club 1974

women at the KG Club 1974

During the 1970s, the KG Club moved locations, existing at venues on Beach Road, Hereford Street and Albert Street. In 1979, the KG club relocated from Beach Road to the corner of Karangahape Road & Hereford Street, which I believe is its last rented location.

This is the building today. The club existed on the second floor.
531-535 Karangahape Road

I’m looking forward to paying tribute to the Kamp Girls Club in person in a few months.

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