Sunny, subversive, cosmopolitan and camp – welcome to Sydney during its annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Whether you’re straight, gay, old or young, you’ll love the gleeful, glamorous energy rippling through the city from late February. Celebrate the festival opening at Fair Day – a huge community party in Sydney’s inner-west. Watch a convoy of sequins, satirical slogans and spray tans wind along Oxford St in the world’s biggest gay pride parade. Dance the midsummer night away in the lush Royal Botanic Gardens or at the powerhouse finale party. Enjoy queer and quirky performances at the Sydney Opera House and other venues across the city.
Mardi Gras takes place over two summer weeks, punctuated by three weekends of high-octane events. Fair Day opens the party with a day of music, entertainment, kid’s rides, sports and food stalls in Broadway’s Victoria Park. Expect to see a display by Sydney’s lesbian motorbike group ‘Dykes on Bikes’, a gay tug-of-war and a queer and colourful dog show. Get shoulder-to-shoulder in the dance tent or relax on the grass and watch the colourful crowds – of more than 60,000 people - surge past.
Many, many more are swept up in the transgressive fun of the Mardi Gras parade the following weekend. What began as a protest march in 1978 is now the world’s biggest gay pride event and one of Sydney’s biggest mainstream celebrations. Up to 400,000 people line Oxford and Flinders Streets for the procession of exotic costumes and political slogans. Grab a spot on the sidelines or watch the parade from the balcony of an Oxford St bar. Cheer as Dykes on Bikes rev their engines at the front of the parade and copy the dance moves of the Asian marching boys. See gay and lesbian police officers march alongside the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and Jewish and Arabic gays and lesbians mixing with queer lifesavers from Bondi Beach.
Keep moving at the post- parade event or at Harbour Party, which takes over the Royal Botanic Gardens the following day and evening. The lush gardens, tropical palms and sweeping harbour views make it the ideal venue for a recovery party. From 2010, the main Mardi Gras party - which features incredible light shows and international DJs and performers – will close the festival on its final weekend.
You don’t have to hit the dance parties to enjoy the magic of Mardi Gras. It’s a fortnight when the city can’t help but flaunt itself. Enjoy cabaret, comedy, music and theatre at the Sydney Opera House or at theatres from Marrickville to Parramatta. Watch gay and lesbian films at the Mardi Gras Film Festival. Fit literature and arts events, forums and conferences in between the many sporting and social activities. Strut down Oxford St alongside towering drag queens and catch summer rays on Bondi Beach. Join the thousands of international visitors exploring Sydney’s famous harbour, beaches and inner-city precincts.
You’ll return home with fabulous pictures of Sydney and a new sense of pride.
Credit: Sydney Mardi Gras