Byron Shire resident DJ Stephen Allkins (right) in 1978 after one of the original day protests that then became Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Byron Shire resident DJ Stephen Allkins (right) in 1978 after one of the original day protests that then became Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The man playing the soundtrack of Mardi Gras for 40 years

BYRON Shire resident and Australian electronic music icon Stephen Allkins will celebrate 40 years as a DJ in Sydney in March, at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Party 2018.

Mardi Gras is also celebrating 40 years in 2018, an event that has been close to Allkins' music career for four decades.

Byron Shire resident and Australian dance music icon DJ Stephen Allkins.
Byron Shire resident and Australian dance music icon DJ Stephen Allkins. Contributed

Besides his role as one of the DJs, Allkins has also been invited to offer a talk on the night before the parade.

The DJ has played music at Mardi Gras more than 15 times, and he played the second party (held for the third Mardi Gras), in 1979.

"I was part of the 1978 day marches and I marched at a day march the day of the first Mardi Gras, and then they did a night march. I was also the DJ at the third Mardi Gras; the very first Mardi Gras was only demonstrations, there was no party," he said.

 

Byron Shire resident DJ Stephen Allkins (left) in 1978 during the original protest that then became Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Byron Shire resident DJ Stephen Allkins (left) in 1978 after one of the original day protests that then became Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

"In 1980 we had a party and I DJ'd.

"It was almost an afterthought... since we were going to do all that marching, we had made some fabulous outfits, and it was such a close community.

"I feel like I played the soundtrack of all that coming out, with a strong political back to it."

Allkins has vivid memories of the days of gay rights demonstrations in Sydney in 1978.

"I went to the day time demonstrations, I missed the night ones," he said.

"I went to (1970s Sydney gay club) Patches that night and I left with no other but Bobby Goldsmith (who HIV non-for-profit Australian organisation Bobby Goldsmith Foundation is name after)," he said.

"At 3am we were walking home and we turned from Oxford St to Forbes St and we saw all this people outside the old police station at Taylor Square.

"It was 400 or 500 people crammed outside, they told us people had been arrested and that someone had a broken arm and they would not let him get medical help.

"We stood there with Bobby until 8am and after we left there were still hundreds there that morning."

 

Artwork for the 2000 single Drop Some Drums by LoveTattoo, aka DJ Stephen Allkins.
Artwork for the 2000 single Drop Some Drums by LoveTattoo, aka DJ Stephen Allkins. Contributed

Allkins said at the time the fight was for human rights, not only gay rights.

"I believe in human rights strongly and I got that from my gay upbringing," he said.

"Back then we used to march in the late 70s and early 80s, at gay rallies, we used to chant 'stop police attacks on gays, women and blacks'.

"Women and aboriginal rights movements were not part of those gay marches, but we included them because they were also minorities righting for rights and we used to support each other," he said.

 

Byron Shire resident and iconic Australian DJ Stephen Allkins.
Byron Shire resident and iconic Australian DJ Stephen Allkins. Javier Encalada

The DJ said Mardi Gras is relevant 40 years later because rights for minorities have been demised in Australia before.

"I thought in the 1980s we had gained a lot of rights, for Aboriginals, for women and for gays, they flourished, and then they were gone... we think we never had (those rights) but we did," he said.

In 2000, Stephen Alkins released a song called Drop Some Drums, is a dance hit released under the name of Lovetattoo.

The tune was named one of the 100 best Australian dance tracks of all time, compiled by music website In the Mix, in 2015.