Roaring 20s Blog

The rich history of the Wentworth Cabaret

The Blue Mountains YHA is one of the most highly regarded hostel options in Australia for backpackers and thousands of tourists pass through their halls every year whilst they are here to enjoy the stunning scenery the Blue Mountains has to offer.  For those who haven’t enjoyed the facilities, you might not be aware of the incredible art deco era architecture the venue has to offer, complete with original lighting, greek-revival statues, intricate cornice, ornate stage and a timber dance floor.  If you feel like a stroll through this wonderful part of the Mountains’ history, why not join an introductory swing dance lesson this Saturday at 3pm (but come along early to register), and stick around as local swing band, The Katoomba Jazz Quartet, will get you putting those new dance moves into action.

The YHA was originally known as Homesdale . . .


Between World War I & World War II, guesthouses in Australia grew in popularity as tourism developed. They were often run by single women or widows, who opened their own homes to travellers. One such woman had the first guesthouse on this property, built in 1918, and called it Homesdale. It could cater to 56 guests.



By 1923, Horrie Gates, an important local figure for tourism, acquired management of the house. He made several additions, including more guest rooms and the ballroom with a sprung timber dance floor in 1934. This room became the famous Wentworth Cabaret, a popular spot for dances, parties, and concerts. The Cabaret even had its own band for guests to enjoy nightly entertainment.



By the 1960’s, tourism was suffering in the Blue Mountains due to the ease of travelling to further distances. Mr Gates closed down the Wentworth Cabaret and leased Homesdale to Illawarra Bible College in 1969. In 1977 the Assemblies of God purchased the building, and the ballroom was used by Commonwealth Bible College as a chapel.



After a year of restoration, the new Blue Mountains YHA opened in April 2001. The building was diligently restored to maintain its art-deco style, showing its inter-war, functionalist beauty. Many of the entryways retain their 1920s and 1930s character, and much of the original joinery survives. The ballroom is important as one of only a few surviving in the Blue Mountains.

Majestic fashion tips for Roaring 20s Festival

Roaring 20s Festival patron Claudia Chan Shaw

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group        Photos: David Hill

Roaring 20s Festival events at the original Blue Mountains party palace will be majestic opportunities to promenade art deco fashion to maximum elegant effect during the February 24-25 weekend.

Retro revivalists can dress to impress for three festival events at the Hydro Majestic Hotel:

Arrive at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in style with Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs



  • Majestic Journey on Friday, February 24: Couples will be collected from Penrith railway station at 10.30am in a fleet of vintage Cadillacs in the spirit of Mark Foy’s original cavalcade and proceed to the world-famous hotel, pausing en route at several historic landmarks. Once at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, guests can tour the splendiferous “Palace in the wilderness’’ before a three-course dinner overlooking the magnificent Megalong Valley. Cost: $2,000 per couple includes vintage car ride, light luncheon, entry to Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum and Everglades Historic House & Gardens, three-course dinner, accommodation and Majestic Long Lunch. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885 or


Take part in the retro dance take-back



  • Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge, 11am on Saturday, February 25: The annual public dance-off will attempt to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the largest number of costumed people dancing the Charleston. Registration and dance tutorial:


Indulge in the most decadent regional gourmet food and wine in the Majestic Marquee

  • Majestic Long Lunch, 12.30pm-4pm on Saturday, February 25: Once the excitement of the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge has quietened and retro revivalists promenade to glamorous effect, diners will graze on decadent regional fair and glimpse exquisite fashion from yesteryear from the Darnell Collection of International Vintage Couture. Cost: $95 per person. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885 or

Long-time festival ambassador, fashion expert and owner of the Darnell Collection of International Vintage Couture, Charlotte Smith, said 1920s fashion was diverse, allowing people to wear outfits which suited their personal taste, social standing, financial state and moral beliefs.

The era was renowned for the emergence of the newly independent worldly-wise “flappers’’ with their flattened chests and shapeless sheath dresses.


However, Ms Smith encouraged festival-goers to look to fashion designer Coco Chanel and legendary stars of the silver screen Louise Brooks and Greta Garbo for jaw-droppingly beautiful eveningwear, the likes of TVs Miss Fisher and Agatha Christie murder mystery shows for everyday wear inspiration and the Downtown Abbey series for sophisticated upmarket attire.

Hair was worn short and slicked back or in a bobbed style. Those with long hair could create finger waves at the front and sweep the rest into a low chignon at the back to look like Mary Pickford or Fay Wray.

A modern style example would be television personality and festival patron Claudia Chan Shaw, whose personal wardrobe is heavily influenced by the `20s era.

Men liked to look dapper for every occasion and wore pure cotton or woollen clothes such as a pin-striped cricket outfit or cream linen suit accessorised with silk cravats (not matching but complementary, no ties), cotton or silk handkerchief, a walking stick or umbrella and a hat (golfing caps and fedoras were popular). Rolled up trouser cuffs showing a little bit of sock, a pair of braces and plain or tartan patterned vest completed the look which modern people might identify with The Great Gatsby or New Hamptons collegiate style.

Roaring 20s Festival patron Claudia Chan Shaw with a Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs car at Everglades Historic House & Gardens

Egyptology was all the rage, after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. The 1920s was a time when people went adventuring to distant, exotic lands such as cruising the legendary River Nile.

Particularly relevant to the Hydro Majestic, people of the `20s (including original hotel owner Mark Foy) were fascinated with the Orient.

“Think cinnabar jewellery, turbans, zodiac starburst designs, that Greek key pattern, gold and lapis, red and chrysanthemum motifs, tiaras, vintage brooches, beaded or sequined bows, headbands with feathers or a jewel,’’ Ms Smith said.

As well as outside the world-famous hotel in front of crisp white walls and breathtaking valley views, retro buffs can show off their costumes when sipping a cocktail along the dramatically decorated Cat’s Alley, within the beautiful Majestic Marquee and against the enormous windows of the Wintergarden Restaurant during dinner.

Go to or phone (02) 4782 6885 for more Roaring 20s Festival information and to book accommodation and dining options.

A ukulele-wielding song-and-dance-man shoots for the vaudeville stage

Constructed around a live soundtrack of popular jazz music from the roaring 20s, ‘Tinpan Alley’ is the comic tragedy of the gregarious yet hapless Godfrey Uke, a fictional ukulele-wielding song-and-dance-man aspiring to stardom from the gritty regimen of the vaudeville stage.

Godfrey, the show’s protagonist, is a self-made man who should have really consulted an expert. His humorous tale of love, lust and eventually loss provides the opportunity for a band of talented (and appropriately well-spruced) young musicians to showcase the infectious and uninhibited music of an era remembered for its short-lived self-assurance and progressive rambunctiousness. The story of Godfrey’s personal journey reflects the historical setting of a sumptuous yet fragile decade of Western decadence ending abruptly with the Great Depression in 1929. As Godfrey’s stab at success goes awry, so too do the tables turn on a golden age of American opulence and opportunity.

 The script and overall performance employ an insouciant brand of comedy, parodying the corny vaudeville gags that premise its storyline and closely inspired by pan-Atlantic absurdist traditions, including the work of Spike Milligan and S.J. Perelman. It also draws on popular notions and events of the 1920s to make humorous and thought-provoking comparisons with contemporary social trends. The bulk of the narrative is delivered by Godfrey, who at times interacts with the audience of diners as if they are part of the story, and as a dialogue between Godfrey and one or more of the other musicians whose own characters develop over the course of the show.

Many of the tunes are recognisable for an audience familiar with the big hits of pre-war America, while others are somewhat more obscure. From Cole Porter’s Broadway successes to the popular songs made ubiquitous by West 28th Street song publishers and penned by the likes of Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael and George Gershwin, ‘Tinpan Alley’ provides a uniquely entertaining insight into this fabulous musical tradition. It is at once irreverent and respectful in dealing with the material and in this way captures the fine balance between frivolity and genius that American popular music of the 1920s embodies.

This hilarious show debuted at last year’s Roaring 20s Festival and Hotel Blue couldn’t be happier to see its return.  Following the show’s success in the Blue Mountains, little old ‘Godfrey Uke’ made his way to 2016’s Adelaide Fringe Festival and got a 4 out of 5 stars from Glamadelaide.  Godfrey is back at Hotel Blue for one-show-only this Saturday night and seating is limited – book your tickets now!

The age of steam, the birth of the motor car industry and swingin’ jazz!

The roaring twenties heralded the start of ‘mass culture’ thanks to the creation of radio, the birth of advertising, mechanised manufacturing, and large-scale urban expansion.  It was an exciting time in world history and was profoundly important to the development of western culture as we know it today.  However the age of steam and the birth of the motor car industry was nearly 100 years ago (were not far from the second coming of the twenties after all), so every now and then it’s important to step back in time and marvel at what was achieved using steam-driven technologies, pre-iPhone communication and early industrial design.  Head along to the Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum on Saturday, February 25th, or Sunday, February 26th, to soak in a little bit of history as part of the “Roaring 20s and all that Jazz” festival.


The last weekend of February 2017 sees the return of the “Trains, Trams & Ts” event at the Museum. Enjoy all the regular attractions including Trains, large & small, and unlimited 20-minute rides on the Heritage Listed Steam Tram. Special happenings include, on both days: Ford Model T cars from the 1920s; enter the Period Dress Competition* (open to all) with FOUR great prizes; kids can join the Historic Classroom re-enactment and learn the “Three Rs” – old style; then marvel at the display & demonstration by the Sydney Morsecodians as they revive the 19th century art of Morse Code. On Sunday, boogie or relax to three follow-up performances by well-known Mountains band, the Kate Woolfe Trio, as they perform their smooth renditions of 1920s classic jazz numbers.

So dust off your fedora, polish your wingtips, pick up your pearls and head along to this unique heritage site and join the fun. Tick off all the boxes with Trains, Trams, Ts and more!

Regular admission fees apply on both days (*no extra for competition entry)

Visit for details or leave message on 02 4751 4638

Are you gonna let the English keep the cup?

No, not the Ashes – we’re talking about The Charleston Challenge!  We need your help to break the World Record we started in 2012.  We broke the record in 2013 with 276 costumed Charleston dancers, 319 in 2014 and hit 360 in 2015.  But then later in 2015, our record was broken twice by Bexhill in the UK with 503 dancers, and then again by Swing Patrol in London with 975 dancers.  Well, we’re Aussies and taking our sporting & leisure records away from us just isn’t right! But before you starting cursing the Poms, there is something you can do about it!  Head to the iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel on Saturday, February 25th, from 10 am to help us take back the record that is rightfully ours!

Everyone is welcome regardless of age, skill level, or the number of left feet they might say they possess – everyone can do it!  Head to to learn the routine and register online as EVERY PERSON COUNTS.  Grab your friends, family, neighbours, acquaintances (for an acquaintance is just a friend you haven’t spent time around a barbie yet), and if you have any time, make some new friends on the train on the way to the Challenge and encourage them to take part.  All you need is a costume (the right cap & suspenders or flapper dress & pearls will do the trick) and the desire to beat the Poms, and together we can make history!

Dinner, views and a Blue Mountains tradition dating back to the 1920s

Blue Mountains pianist, Alan Johnson, first performed at the Mountain Heritage in 1982 and has been the hotel’s resident pianist ever since.  Alan isn’t just a ‘player for hire’ – Alan is keeping a 1920s tradition alive.  Music has been a feature of the Mountain Heritage, previously The California, since it opened in 1908 and by the 1920’s the hotel had become a favourite haunt for the stars of radio, stage and screen. The Herald reported that the hotel was ‘the largest and most palatial guesthouse in the southern hemisphere with … a neon lighted ballroom, an in-house entertainer and a permanent orchestra.’ The California was the place to be in the 20s and Alan isn’t just providing light entertainment in a Hotel Lounge, he is bringing the hotel’s past into the present, in a world full of iTunes, Spotify playlists, and pre-recorded background easy listening jazz.

As part of the Roaring 20s Festival throughout February, Alan will reprise many of the 1920’s hit tunes that were sung around the piano – songs that were written purely to be sung with gusto in cheerful company. Casual, impromptu and joyous, Alan will be at the Grand Piano every Saturday Night inviting any ‘old soul’ to join him in a song.  Come along and enjoy a favourite past time of the 20’s in a hotel that lived a life in the 20’s.  If that wasn’t enough, The Mountain Heritage is home to Jamison Views Restaurant and The California Cocktail Bar.  Pull up a stool at the bar to enjoy a 1920’s cocktail, then move into the Restaurant and soak up one of the few dining experiences in the Mountains with spectacular views.

‘The songs that made us’ gets a 7.5/10


Well known music critic John Shand attended Saturday Night’s ‘Intimate Night’ with Susan Gai Dowling, Evan Lohning & Bob Bertles.  Check out his review and see what you missed – it was an absolute pleasure to enjoy fine music from legendary sax player Bob Bertles, master songstress Susan Gai Dowling & incredible arranger Evan Lohning. Thanks John!

7.5 out of 10 Review

Hydro’s majestic Valentine’s Day serenade

Delectable food, exquisite venue, magical view and even love songs – all you have to do for Valentine’s Day at the Blue Mountains’ legendary hotel of love is provide the romance on Sunday, February 12.

Alternatively, treat your love to a chauffeur driven tour of the most romantic locations in the area with all the style of old Hollywood in a beautiful vintage car with Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs.

Or, mark the occasion as a major milestone and combine both experiences with a Majestic Journeys package.

Sweethearts can sip a rose petal cocktail on arrival at the Hydro Majestic Hotel before nibbling on a selection of high tea delicacies while Opera Australia tenor Brad Cooper and pianist Grace Kim return to the original Blue Mountains party palace to perform a suite of romantic serenades.

To be held the Sunday of the Valentine’s Day week as part of the Roaring 20s Festival, the Kabarett program will be a celebration of wild electric decadence and dangerously dark humour.

The musical journey will travel through the wartime hits of Noel Coward and Ivor Novello via Berlin’s comedian harmonists, the romantic golden age of Austria’s Richard Tauber, Stolz and Korngold to Brel and Piaf’s Paris.

Guests will be treated to the political passion of Hanns Eisler through to the irrepressible irreverence of Tom Lehrer and Dillie Keane today.

Celebrate the special occasion by upgrading your high tea to include a glass of Australian sparkling wine or a glass of Pol Roger NV French Champagne while Opera Australia tenor Brad Cooper serenades.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “We’ll take care of the ambrosia; we’ll set the magical scene in a dreamy location; we’ll even serenade you with love songs. The rest is up to you.’’

Make the magic last with a three-hour vintage car tour along the escarpment edge, visiting romantic locations along the way before or after the performance.

Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs will collect you from and return you to any location in the Blue Mountains in one of the head-turning 1928-29 LaSalle Cadillacs. As elegant now as they were then, each beauty has been lovingly restored to spectacular effect.

Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs owner Donald Millar said: “If you really want to impress your loved one, Flora, Ella and Ava will earn you some serious brownie points.’’

Timeless in shape, opulent by nature, “they have a beauty inherent in themselves’’ and create a flurry of attention wherever they go, Mr Millar said.

Go to, email or phone 0455 352 976 to book a luxury vintage car tour only.

Valentine’s Weekend High Tea Kabarett featuring Brad Cooper and Grace Kim will be held from 11am to 1.45pm in the Wintergarden Restaurant at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath, on Sunday, February 12. Choose from a high tea serving at 11am or 12.45pm. Cost: $95pp.

Bookings for Majestic Journeys packages at the Hydro Majestic Hotel and the Valentine’s Weekend High Tea Kabarett: or phone (02) 4782 6885.

Go to to book accommodation and other dining options at one of the four Escarpment Group properties in the upper Blue Mountains (the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, Lilianfels Resort & Spa and Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant).

Everybody Charleston with the Swing Katz!

The Swing Katz are so excited about the Charleston Challenge coming up on Saturday, February 25th, that they thought that we needed a new Charleston training video.  The girls took to the streets of Sydney to strut and produced this fun video!  The routine remains unchanged from last year so it easy to learn even if you have never learned to dance, or even if you have two left feet.  Its fun for all ages and we encourage everyone to get involved.

Register for the Charleston Challenge now and we will see you on Saturday, February 25th!

The sexytet are in town!


A bunch of cheeky lads called the Arthur Washington Sexytet are about to finish their 2nd album, so it was about time they embarked on a summer tour.  These guys have ‘cut their teeth’ across many venues in Sydney and are heading up the Mountain as a feature artist for the Roaring 20s Festival. Look out for Arthur Washington on manouche guitar & vocals, Eamon Dilworth on trumpet & vocals, Matt Lamb on double bass & vocals and Henry Manuell on manouche guitar and get ready for the unbridled energy of this seasoned gypsy outfit.  Django jazz, swing, a touch of soul and a hell of a lot of fun!  6:30-8:30pm, Hotel Blue, bar & kitchen open, free event. This will be something you don’t want to miss!