It has been announced that the biggest party of the year, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, will not be going ahead next year – at least, not in the usual form. The annual march down Oxford Street, in the heart of Sydney’s queer nightlife district, will be replaced by a ticketed event at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The audience will be capped at 23,000 people, with parade partner SBS broadcasting the event live. This is the first time in its more than 40 year history the parade will not be free to attend. Held in February, the 2020 festival was the last major event before Sydney went into lockdown. The phrase “At least we had Mardi Gras…” has been a common sentiment amongst those pining for the sweaty, glittery escapism of queer dancefloors like the Mardi Gras after-parties that raged around the city.
Mardi Gras began in 1978, and has grown to become one of Sydney’s biggest tourism drawcards, and no doubt helped Sydney to win the bid to host World Pride in 2023. Representatives from queer communities have expressed concerns about the growing commercialisation of the parade, as well as police presence at the event, which was initially conceived as a small protest against police violence. Community group Pride in Protest recently submitted an open letter to the Mardi Gras board calling for the removal of corrective services and the police from the Mardi Gras Parade.
Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger said the organisation will continue to welcome the presence of police in the parade, however moving forward there will be a greater focus on community.
“Our 2021 Parade will move away from large floats, centring instead on the outlandish pageantry of costumes, puppetry and props that make it such a phenomenon to witness,” Mr Kruger said in a press release.
“Mardi Gras has always been the epitome of creative expression through art and culture; two things severely impacted this year. So it was important to Mardi Gras that we rise to the occasion and to give the community the creative platform to express their pride to the world. The 2021 Parade may look different to how it has been in the past, but we feel very lucky to be able to give this opportunity to our communities during these times."
Parade entry, volunteer applications and tickets will go on sale on Monday November 9 at mardigras.org.au.