An update from Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras following the 2024 Festival

It’s clear from recent news about Australia’s event scene that it’s a difficult time to be a festival in Australia. Rising operational costs paired with the weak Australian dollar and a cost of living crisis has presented immense challenges to institutions that already operate on very lean margins, with many major festivals being forced to cancel, including Splendour in the Grass, Groovin the Moo, Return to Rio, Falls Festival, ValleyWays, Coastal Jam, Vintage Vibes, Dark Mofo and Mona Foma, and many others making significant programming alterations in order to continue trading.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has not been immune to these pressures. Our timeline in budgeting, planning, launching tickets and delivering our 46th festival saw a challenging environment grow more and more difficult. The crisis impacting arts, culture and major events is significant.

This operating environment was exacerbated by the unexpected events of our 2024 festival. The mix of external forces, cost of living rises and an industry in crisis formed a ‘perfect storm’ of factors that has placed Sydney Mardi Gras in a vulnerable position financially, with events coming to a head while delivering one of the most important and culturally significant events in Australia’s calendar.

We are grateful to our partners who have supported us and our communities through challenging times. Sydney Mardi Gras is more than just a festival, we represent and advocate for LGBTQIA+ inclusion and visibility. We deliver $35 million dollars of economic benefit to NSW each year. In 2024 our festival supports Sydney residents and visitors to enjoy our city with a 20 percent boost in foot traffic on festival’s weekends, which includes a significant 76 per cent jump in interstate visitors. Sydney’s Oxford Street precinct is activated each year, with visitors up 38 per cent across the entire festival and up 74 per cent in the evenings. We have cemented Sydney’s international reputation as a safe and inclusive city that embraces it’s LGBTQIA+ identity and been part of countless stories of people finding their identity and community through our annual celebrations.

We are taking all available steps to cut costs and to plan for a community focussed festival in 2025. We will work tirelessly to champion LGBTQIA+ excellence and equality by creating opportunities for our communities to connect and celebrate who they are. Careful consideration will need to be made about the events and experiences we provide in 2025. However, over our 46-year history, and after working through the lockout laws, restrictions and as one of the only Pride Organisations in the world to ensure that we held our Parade through the pandemic, we are an organisation who is familiar with perseverance and resilience.

With the 2024 Festival behind us, and as we plan for a leaner 2025, Sydney Mardi Gras will continue to work closely with our government partners in responding to the challenges faced by the major events and festival industry. Our relationships with our partners, who believe in the power and importance of major events, remains strong and we look forward to working together in the lead up to 2025 and beyond.