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2015 Queen of Queens: Warwick Broadhead

Mon 1 Jun 2015 In: Our Communities View at Wayback View at NDHA

Every year at Queen's Birthday Weekend acknowledges one of those glbti people whose spirit has inspired and uplifted us all, either directly or in directly In 2012 we honoured Carmen, in 2013 Chrissy Witoko, and last year Peter Taylor. (Image: Radio New Zealand) When Warwick Broadhead died in January the gay communities lost someone very special. Gracious, occasionally tart, frequently imperious, always regal, he was also charming, creative and was the possessor of a freewheeling mind that went places the rest of us didn't even know existed, Warwick was one of us and yet at the same time utterly, utterly different. He was on another plane. As a youngster his obvious homosexuality (he was unabashedly stereotypically fey, camp and arch) created problems and a difficult family life was not a good start. But he rose above it all. He fled to Sydney, studied modern dance and lived out and free. Back in Auckland he started a small performance group which performed random and wonderful theatrical events timed to coincide with the full moon. He travelled widely, studying studying indigenous dance. In Japan he delved into Kabuki theatre. He would spend time in thought and meditation at retreats in the Australian desert. Iin San Francisco he was a member of a genderfuck performance group. He created a performance language which was uniquely his own. He came to believe in, and advocate for, the strength of communities and its expression through performance. Returning to New Zealand Warwick was increasingly contracted by communities around the country to create theatrical events. He would draw ideas and performances from anyone who turned up to be involved, no matter how unlikely the raw material. He taught unsuspecting and hitherto ordinary people grace and elegance and how to find their voices. He also created his own personal shows, the most famous being his interpretation of The Hunting of the Snark, the whole production appearing out of a small, battered, leather suitcase. He performed in New Zealand, the USA, the UK and Europe. His flamboyant and unique lifestyle became notorious. For example, he ‘married’ his Grey Lynn villa in a flash of pageantry and subsequently divorced it when he built a new home on Waiheke Island Among his many unforgettable public artworks was the giant penis float in the 2000 Hero Parade. Warwick Broadhead was provocative - sometimes challengingly so - and playful. He was by turns mad, stimulating, funny, revealing, annoying, challenging, caring and uplifting. He squeezed every bit of possibility and drama out of life. He was an extrovert, an attention seeker, who knew no boundaries and attracted a cult-like following. He loved applause. Warwick taught those glbti people who knew him that you didn't have to take anything for granted, that life didn't have to be 'normal' and that no matter how meagre your resources of material goods, confidence, strength or resilience, you could make your life whatever you wanted it to be. And even if you never aspired to his heights of idiosyncrasy, a little of his flamboyantly, deliciously queer spirit would inevitably inveigle its way into your soul. Every glbti community needs someone like Warwick to inspire,to  challenge and to uplift. In the five months since he died no obvious successor has appeared... but we wait and we watch and we hope. Jay Bennie - 1st June 2015    

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Monday, 1st June 2015 - 8:46am

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