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2009/62/1 Archive of material relating to Sweatbox dance parties including posters (23), audio cassette tapes (10), VHS video cassettes (5), paper / plastic, various manufacturers, used by Victor Li and Richard Weiss, Australia, 1988 - 1993. Click to enlarge.

Archive of material relating to Sweatbox dance parties

Made 1988-1993
Throughout 1989 there was a dance party in Sydney every week, often on both Friday and Saturday. At Sweatbox dance parties, the music was frequently provided by DJ's Mark Alsop, Pee Wee Ferris, Stephen Ferris, Stephen Allkins, Robert Racic, Ben Drayton. There were several themes injected into the Sweatbox parties: Let The Eat Cake was a baroque extravaganza with a rococo theme; Royal Command was a performance based dance party; Barbarella had a space ship on the dance floor - drag queen Cindy Pastel played Barbarella; Sign of the Times showcased 1980s design, displaying 80s iconography such as the smiley face, VW sign, Mercedes Benz sign, hammer and sickle, and hearts with wings.

In June 1990 the Liquor Administration Board clamped down on dance parties at the Hordern Pavilion after complaints from local residents about noise and disturbance. All events involving amplified music were banned. This drove dance parties underground and was the beginning of the rave scene that flourished in the early 90s.

The late 1980s was the era of the nightclub promoter. The donors of this archive did not own nightclubs; however, they promoted regular weekly nights at clubs like Site - in the Piccadilly Hotel in Victoria Street Potts Point, and at Kinsela's at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst, Sydney. Site featured DJ Maynard's Madd Club on Monday nights, Sensoria or Blitz on Wednesday nights, the very elite Meltdown (based on New York's Studio 54) on Thursday nights and Junkyard on Friday nights. The Famous club on was held on Wednesdays nights at Kinsela's. Famous first took place on the night Kinsela's opened in 1989. The idea was for patrons to have fifteen minutes of fame. A photo ID was taken and made into a laminate. The idea (and the artwork) for this was of course inspired by popular culture artist Andy Warhol.

The donor and his partner established Chinese Laundry nightclub in 1990. They actually owned the rights to the concept of the club, rather than just being the promoters. It was located where the Slip Inn pub is situated on Sussex Street Sydney currently. The name Chinese Laundry was registered; however, the donor let it lapse and now Justin Hemmes has a club of the same name at the same place.

This archive documents in a clear and comprehensive way a subculture that flourished and diverged into other subcultures. It also illustrates the passion that the designers and creators had for providing a dance party and nightclub experience that transcended the popular culture notion of this genre of entertainment.

Damian McDonald
July 2009


Object No.


Object Statement

Archive of material relating to Sweatbox dance parties including posters (23), audio cassette tapes (10), VHS video cassettes (5), paper / plastic, various manufacturers, used by Victor Li and Richard Weiss, Australia, 1988 - 1993

Physical Description

Archive of material relating to Sweatbox dance parties including posters (23), audio cassette tapes (10), VHS video cassettes (5), paper / plastic, various manufacturers, used by Victor Li and Richard Weiss, Australia, 1988 - 1993





The objects in this archive were made by various producers to advertise, celebrate, document, and be used at Sweatbox, Mardi Grass and other rave, dance and gay culture parties and nightclubs in the 1980s and 1990s in Sydney, Australia.



This archive of posters and other memorabilia was assembled over a decade from the early to mid 1980s to the early 1990s. It documents the rave, dance and gay culture nightclub/dance party scene that was a thriving subculture in that era. The donors were the creators, organisers and promoters of the Sweatbox parties, and also attended many other parties and nightclubs.

The donors attended many dance parties in the 1980s, and decided they could organise much improved ones. The first party the organised was in February 1989. They called the parties Sweatbox; and they were designed to create a unique and emotive atmosphere.

The donors formed an innovative and creative party design team. They designed the concepts, graphics, artwork - much of it designed on Letraset on lounge-room floors - and attained high standards in lighting and sound for the parties. Their reputation for creating dance parties with art and style was quickly established. They transformed dull, sterile spaces into uniquely themes party environments. Set Designer Paul Hinderer also made an important contribution to the set design of the first three Sweatbox parties.

The very first Sweatbox was scheduled for a week after Mardi Gras. To publicise it, they created a float for the Mardi Gras Parade, and had it travel at the back of the entire parade. The first Sweatbox party was called Meltdown. Its aesthetic was industrial chic. The venue was the Hordern Pavilion in East Sydney. The foyer was transformed into the mouth of a cave from which a mine shaft led to the dance floor which was surrounded by three giant earth movers with lighting rigs attached.

They donated this archive, along with other objects to the Powerhouse Museum in 2009 for use in research and exhibitions on popular culture and subcultures in the 1980s in Australia.


Credit Line

Gift of Victor Li and Richard Weiss, 2009

Acquisition Date

6 August 2009

Cite this Object


Archive of material relating to Sweatbox dance parties 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 5 July 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Archive of material relating to Sweatbox dance parties |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=5 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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