By Daniel Brace

    ‘I’m taking you out for your birthday. Where do you want to go?’ I asked my about-to-be 76 year old friend and former drag queen (who still doesn’t mind donning a wig and little black dress, although thankfully the heels have been replaced with sensible flats a long time ago). ‘Oh, can we go for a cheap feed and to the POOF Bar in Footscray? Please please please…’

    POOF stands for Pride of Our Footscray and is a community owned venture – dance bar, cocktail lounge, party space – and a safe space in the inner west for LGBTIQA+, Queer, Rainbow and allied community. It’s the place you go to let your hair down or put it up, depending on your preference. Depending on when you go there is music, dancing, live performance, drag shows. It’s a hive of community fun and action. 

    POOF Bar is run by the always smiling Mat and his diverse and kind crew of bartenders and helpers. Mat is proud that the bar properly pays its performers, security guards (all as sweet as pie and great to know they are there), staff and music licensing. Recently however times got tough, the cost of living was biting, and, as we came out of COVID, everyone was nervous about getting out again. So Mat did what he had to do and called on the community for help. We answered by becoming members and making regular dates to get out and help rebuild the customer base. 

    Back to the birthday boy. We had a great night. YUMMY, a drag and cabaret act show hosted on six inch platforms by one of our favourites, Valarie Hex, kept us delighted with an adult drag time story, a fabulous contortionist and – my elderly friend’s favourite – a burlesque performer who twirled her pasties. I turned to my friend and asked him ‘why do you love it here?’ His reply: ‘I felt at home the moment I walked in.’ 

    We need to support POOF Bar, so that people know they have a safe place where they can come and be themselves. Having a venue where you are accepted and celebrated, where people are kind and friendly can make a huge difference to your mental health regardless of your age. 

    Getting home later that evening, the phone dinged. It was my friend. ‘I’m in bed! What a great night. So much fun. I’m exhausted.’ It was 10:30pm. Regardless of YOUR bedtime, pop in sometime and say hi to Mat, and be yourself. You’ll be welcomed with open arms. 

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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