The Interview: 

Getting heaps close with Kat Dopper

Words Amy Willing
Imagery MILS

At 107 we house a lot of resident organisations – charities and groups doing great things in arts and the community. Heaps Gay is one of them. Meet Kat Dopper, founder and organiser one of the best regular parties in Sydney.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a Sydney gal, I’ve been in Sydney most of my life. I live in Redfern, and I love it. I’ve been working as an event producer in the music industry for about six years, and I started Heaps Gay, a regular series of parties and events for LGBTI+ kids and their friends, and anyone who wants to have a good time really.

How did Heaps Gay come about?

I worked in London for a while, and I came out as identifying as a lesbian when I was over there. I got to experience some of the scene, and it’s very fluid. You can go to a pub on the corner in East London and just have a good time. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s very inclusive, there’s guys and girls, and it just feels like a house party most of the time. I really enjoyed it and I started to come into myself and own my identity.

Then I came back to Sydney in 2009 and was so ready to go out and meet people. I had the choice of Oxford Street pubs, or very lesbian focused parties, and I didn’t really feel welcome at any of them. I just wanted good music and somewhere I could bring my friends along to as well. That was pretty much the motivation, to be honest. I thought, let’s just start something that we want to go to.

You deliberately decided to make Heaps Gay queer friendly, rather than exclusively gay or lesbian. Why was that?

The name Heaps Gay came about when I was sitting in a garden with bunch of friends, and we kind of suggested it, just being silly. But then we couldn’t think of anything else and the name just stuck. At the time we were like yuck, that’s the worst name ever!

I didn’t specify what it was, I just said we’re doing this thing. It was to raise money for charity, and I invited my friends along. The first one was completely mixed from the beginning. We held it at the Gladstone and I could overhear people saying, oh my god there’s girls here! There’s guys here! This is so good! It was just like that from the beginning, and that’s how it became what it is now.

What is it about Heaps Gay that makes people feel so welcome?

I guess it’s because there’s no judgement. We don’t take ourselves seriously. You know how at some parties there’s a very specific music genre, and if you don’t know that music or don’t dance in a certain way you’re not really welcome? It’s not like that. No one bats an eyelid if you’re dressed in multicolours, or wearing whatever. It genuinely feels like a house party. You just go and you never really know what you’re going to expect.

You’ve recently set up heapsgay.com, a platform for young and emerging writers in the queer community. Was that in reaction to something you felt was missing from the general media?

Definitely. Queer news in Sydney has its place. It’s very informative and it covers lots of events, but I felt that there wasn’t really a voice for the LGBTI youth. Our parties are a great platform for artists to showcase their stuff, and the blog has become a place for LGBTI youth to share their opinions. It’s for youth, written by youth.

I also felt like there was an opportunity to leverage Heaps Gay’s brand to make an impact and reach young people that potentially don’t have access to a queer voice – people out in rural areas or people that can’t access the party. It’s really about making people feel that it’s okay to be themselves.

You’ve done a lot of amazing things in the past few years! Is there anything that stands out for you, that you’re most proud of?

We’ve just done an event with Groovin’ the Moo in Canberra, and I’m actually pretty proud of that. Groovin’ the Moo visit six rural towns across Australia, and next year we will hopefully go to all of them. To be able to spread that awareness that being gay is okay, out in places where it might not be that easy, is huge. Grooving the Moo is 14 years and up, and to see young people interacting in the tent and loving it was amazing. The output of that is so great, and it’s taken my idea of what I wanted heapsay.com to be into a physical product.

What are you working on at the moment?

We have a big festival of queer delights this Sunday. It’s our event with Vivid Sydney. We are transforming The Factory into an immersive wonderland with over 40 artists and musicians and working with a bunch of people like ACON, Radha La bia – a drag artist, Collarbones, a Visual light artist called Zender Bender, Rainbow Chan, and heaps more. So I’ll be spending this week pulling it all together for a big crazy affair. Making lots of decorations too, so much glitter.

When you’re not working or partying, where can we find you?

Gardening. We’re obsessed with gardening at the moment. I’m also very big on sitting and eating cheese and drinking red wine with a bunch of friends in the back garden. So gardening in the garden and drinking wine in the garden, that’s my weekend.

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