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August 15, 2023

Drag yourself in style to the Broken Heel Festival

The annual festival celebrating The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert returns to the iconic Palace Hotel in Broken Hill in September.

  • Words: William James Barker

Ask Esther La Rovere, the managing director of the Palace Hotel and Broken Heel Festival organiser, what her favourite moment has been since starting the event in 2015 and she doesn’t miss a beat.

“I think probably one of the special moments that always gets me is we were given some of the props from the original Priscilla musical and one of those is a big sort of six-metre-high stiletto which is also a staircase, and we always get one of our artists up on that staircase to perform each year,” she says.


Broken Heel Festival

7-11 September

Broken Hill, NSW

“And so often we will do an aria, like what’s played in the movie when Guy Pearce is on top of the bus, and then we shoot all these fireworks off the slag heap.

“I think it’s just a really poignant moments.

“It always sort of brings a tear and then to see all these excited faces watching it. It’s something very iconic that you’re not going to see anywhere else.”

Before Priscilla became Aussie folklore an Outback town filled with drag queens was something rare as well, but Esther changed that “after meeting the writer and director of the film, Stephen Elliott”.

“He came to the hotel and [I heard] about him discovering the hotel and then deciding to use it in the film,” she says.

“And then finding out that it was used as a central set for the film, both as the hotel and also as the other, interior locations, we just wanted to celebrate that link.”

There will be three days of festivities between 7-11 September, with the street adjacent to the Palace Hotel blocked off to form the grounds for the ticketed events.

On Saturday there’s a parade down Broken Hill’s main street.

“We’ve got camels,” Esther says.

“There are gorgeous vintage cars that come onboard and the festival floats are usually quite spectacular.


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“I know that this year ACON are bringing their rainbow serpent, which is this really large sort of puppet which takes a team of people to move it.”

It may sound counterintuitive for Adelaideans to hit Broken Hill via Sydney, but the special Silver Stiletto train from Sydney is a bucket list item begging to be ticked, as is a dedicated Ruffles flight from Rex Airlines.

“This year on the Silver City Stiletto we’ve got some fantastic drag queens on board,” Esther says.

“We have BeBe Gunn, Foxx Faux, and then we have the Deadly Deities… they do things like bingo, there are catwalk competitions between the seats, a bit of karaoke.”

Esther says Dame Liz will greet visitors in the Rex lounge in Sydney before the Ruffles flight.

“She’ll have a couple of numbers to do,” Esther says, “And make sure everybody’s comfortable while they have canapes and glasses of bubbles before they hop on board.”

Esther says that while she doesn’t have any plans to stop putting on the festival, it’s best to get in when you can.

“As fantastic as it would be to think it could continue forever,” Esther says. “It’s one of those things to never assume can go on forever, so it’s more likely to encourage people to enjoy it while they can.”

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