Tony Papworth - Munch, Hardcore Cafe, Promoter
He started and ran the Hardcore Cafe – Café behind the Agincourt Hotel in the Sydney CBD He ran ‘Munch’ productions with his wife – A mobile food and beverage set up at raves He is a promoter and organiser of ‘Dream Factory’ one of Sydney’s first fully legal raves. Interview by Brenden Brain
How did you get into the rave scene?
Looking for a missing step son, lol, one night when he was staying at a friend’s house. His friends mother rang us in a bit of a state, they had pretended to go to bed and climbed out the window!! We knew Luke his older brother was going to a party on Botany Rd and put 2 and 2 together and went looking for him.
What was your first party?
Underground Resistance at Graffiti in 92
Were you a punter and dance etc like other ravers or were you just part of the cogs that organised things?
No I was always on the working side.
How did you come up with the idea to start ‘Munch’?
Well as I said our youngest son went “missing” and we turned up at Graffiti to find him. We met Tony Spanos and were chatting for a while and noticed a steady stream of kids heading down the road to Maccas! Next thing we know Tony had talked us into doing a sausage sizzle at the next party!! It all just grew from there.
How many parties were Munch at?
God, dozens? hundreds? Bloody lots that’s for sure . Most weekends for 4 years. I would imagine it would be hard to sell food to ravers.
Was ‘Munch’ a success? What was your biggest seller?
Yes it was very successful for most of the time. Chuppa Chups lol!! Actually we sold a surprising number of Sausages on rolls as well. There were always some uneaten ones around in the morning though.
Did you have a day job?
Yeah up until I opened the Hardcore I worked at a Marina repairing boats, Munch certainly didn’t make enough to live on.
How old were you during the rave years?
About 36 when we started
Did much stuff get stolen?
You are Luke Spellbound’s step father. Who got into the scene first? How did he get his first big break?
Luke was involved long before me, I’m not sure he got one big break he just worked his butt off.
Being one of the only adults I remember being around the scene, how did you feel about seeing ravers get younger and younger? You probably saw some tragic situations while at raves. How did you cope? Did you sometimes want to help and befriend ravers in trouble?
Yes the gradual trend to younger and younger kids did worry me a lot. We tried to keep an eye on them and did help out where we could. I wouldn’t let an 11 year old into a party one night and he was screaming at me “my mother says I can!!” and I said “well here’s my phone # get her to call me!!”
The hardcore cafe space was one of the best known rave spaces during the early to mid 1990s. It was host to many rave parties. Each promoter tried to put their own spin on in and set up the place in their own way. From the Scaffolding of the Mach V’s Star Wars parties to the marquees of Smurf Village to a foam bubble dance floor of the Love and Flim Flam party. It was a space behind the Agincourt hotel on Harris Street, Pyrmont. Down an alley and you found yourself in an outdoor car park, where is where the bulk of the raves were held. Some parties they even opened up the back doors to the pinball arcades of George Street and the downstairs part of the hotel. The Hardcore would have to be one of most used non club venues in the Sydney CBD. Tony ran the Hardcore Cafe, which was at the front of the car park and a local hang out place for ravers.
How did you come to own/run the Hardcore café?
From memory the Café only came sometime after it started being used as a venue. Were you part of the space from day one or come on board later?
Was the space (the carpark at the back of the lane) part of the hardcore café and promoters paid you to have their parties there or was the Café just located close to the party area.
I will have to answer all those 3 all together. Through Luke and Geoff the Chef we got to know Jim who leased the building on George St that the car park was for. He had an amusement arcade thing on the George St level and the rest was pretty much empty. Once he started doing parties there he also took over the lease of what was to become the Hardcore to get access to the toilets underneath it. There was a dodgy Indian take away operating there. I had separated from Luke’s Mom by this stage and Jim and I hatched the plan to open the “Hardcore Cafe”
Was the Café successful? Was it a major hang out place for Ravers?
Yes it was sort of successful but nobody got rich, least of all me! A lot of ravers did hang out there and a few DJ’s and promoters as well. We only really survived financially from the party nights.
Who worked there? I remember maybe Geoff the Chef or maybe we all just thought that cause he had chef in his name?
Everyone working there were from the scene. We had Geoff the Chef, Herb, Spellbound and Sub Zero doing shifts in the kitchen and the others were all ravers too.
How long was the café there?
About 18mths from memory, we got kicked out because the Bank that owned the building wanted to redevelop the site.
Best memory from this time, any funny things happen? Funny stories or any stories that should be documented?
Best memory? Probably the night of Smurf Village, the whole place was pumping that night. Funny stories…. well there was the Friday night that a certain promoter turned up kissing his new BF when no one knew he was that way inclined!! That freaked a few people out!!
Inevitably politics played a part in the scene. How involved were you in that? Were there different ‘factions’ that each crew like or disliked?
Yeah I was pretty involved in the politics, seemed like everyone talked to me about “stuff” but that was cool.
Did the police turn up or did you or anyone get in trouble?
We only had trouble with the cops a few times at the Cafe but I spent many nights negotiating with them outside other peoples parties. I guess as I was a bit older I could deal with them a bit better.
Why were the ravers allowed to party at the hardcore but other venues were closed down. Was it a matter that we needed somewhere to go and the police turned a blind eye to this venue?
Well Jim’s family had several business along that strip and knew the cops pretty well and so did the guy that owned the Agincourt. We also had a DA in with the council for an entertainment license . They just sort of pretended it wasn’t happening as long as we kept it under control. Eventually though the DA was refused and the cops shut it down as a venue.
How did the idea for the ‘Dream Factory’ party come about?
It had been rumbling around in my head for a while. I had observed so many parties up close and thought I knew what it took to make a good party. I wanted to show it was still possible to put on a great party, keep it open and give the punters what they paid for. The scene was on the fade at that time and lots of shutdowns were happening. Other parties like Mayday 2 just didn’t happen at all with no explanation.
How hard was it to make the party ‘legal’?
Well we weren’t the first “legal” party others had happened at Homebush Sports Centre and at Alexandria Basketball Center like FOD 3. But as far as I know we were the first to actually get written consent from South Sydney Council. We were certainly the only one to be included in the Sydney Festival. It just made a lot of work. We had to get Redfern Police on side plus get approval from all the neighbouring businesses, insurance, extra security blah blah. What was the most challenging thing to organise this party? Raising the money to put it on!!! Doing things legit is expensive.
There are a lot of good stories around about this party, would you consider it a success?
There’s no doubt it was a great party and we achieved all our objectives however the old shit caught up with us . As usual another group put on a party the same night in a dodgy venue and split the crowd which made it impossible to even break even. As Abel would say “another day at the races”
How many people in your group to help organise and promote the party? It was a small group really which in hindsight was probably a mistake. We could have used a lot more help with the promotion side.
Did you hold any other parties?
Yes I put on Dream Sequence at the Metro a month later and exactly the same thing happened, another party on the same night. I was pretty gutted by that and went back to just doing Munch although there weren’t many parties after that really. Not long after I had to declare myself bankrupt.
Were the police in attendance to watch over it?
No but 60 minutes were!! They completely sucked me in with a bullshit story about wanting to tell the “real” story and then did a hatchet job on us pretty much.
When did you get out of the scene? Was it a conscious decision or did your attendance just get less and less frequent?
Well they just stopped happening really or any worth attending. I helped out a bit with the last Prodigy and went to a couple of Utopias but then lost interest.
How long did you attend raves for?
About 5 years I guess.
Did you enjoy the music?
For the most part yes but I wasn’t that keen on the Gabba! lol.
What was the best thing from the rave days? Any specific stories you can tell us that you would like to share?
Well it was the people really, that’s what it was all about. I have lots of stories but have promised to keep them to myself.
Thanks for your time Tony!