Created By: Radical Wellington Walking Tour
From Manners Mall into Manners Street, recent memory of this site has seen some swift transformation in the past decade, from an open mall into a funnel of congestion for busses, cars, and crowded sidewalks. To imagine where the Dorian Society used to be, you will also have to imagine Cornhill Street, which branched from Manners at approximately this location.
The Dorian Society was established in 1962 as the first exclusively gay venue in Wellington. It promised a public space for men who did not have access to the private friendship networks that characterised the gay scene at the time. In spite of its inclusion on this tour of Radical Wellington, the Dorian Society was intended to be a civilising force for the gay community, a low-risk social venue characterised by evenings of cheese and wine and decorum and a counter to more sexualised or drug using social scenes.
Soon after its formation, the Dorian Society set up a legal subcommittee with the intention of challenging the illegality of sex between men, which, in 1966, became the the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society. This group would go onto involve itself in such milestones as the Crimes Amendment Bill in 1974 that sought to legalise private homosexual acts, and join other queer groups in protest against opponents to the Homosexual Law Reform Bill of 1985 through protest, disruption, and the distribution of information.
Want to learn more?
Mates & Lovers (Random House New Zealand, 2008) by Chris Brickwell follows the historical changes of gay culture across New Zealand
National Library. Regent Theatre, Manners Street, Wellington, with Breen's cafeteria on the left. Photograph taken by an unidentified photographer ca 1950s.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Walking Radical Wellington