What a big month it has been since my last update. Firstly, I’m pleased to officially share with you that the 2021 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is going ahead.
You may have seen me on the ABC making the announcement, but I wanted to make sure I shared with you the details directly.
OUR PLAN FOR MARDI GRAS 2021
2020 has been a chaotic year for the world, least of all for the many of us who work in the arts and culture industry. Across the nation, creators, performers, artists and those who work in events have struggled to keep their heads above water.
As an arts and culture organisation, we have seen and we have felt the struggles of people within this sector, many of whom identify as part our community.
Even at this time while things appear to be getting back to normal, there are many restrictions still in place impacting the arts and culture sector and the organisation of mass events.
After such a hard year, we felt we had to do everything we could to keep Mardi Gras in our calendars. We felt it was so important to hold the parade, even if we had to change the format to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.
We are not quitters and hated the idea of cancelling so we created what we could, in the largest venue we could. This is not only to provide much-needed funding to the hundreds of creatives that support each Mardi Gras but to make sure that we can come together as a community.
Amid event cancellations around the country, we have found a way to continue.
Having worked closely with NSW Health on an alternative plan, and I’m pleased to let you know that the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade will go ahead at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on 6 March.
Yes, the Parade will look different to how it has in the past, but the spirit of celebration and expression of protest will remain strong. Even in this new COVID world, we have a chance to express ourselves authentically, connect with each other and live loud and proud.
Oxford Street is and always will be the spiritual home of Mardi Gras, and we will return to it as soon as we are able. However, the SCG is the right alternative. It is the closest large venue to Oxford Street, it will allow for people to be seated and appropriately distanced and, as a ticketed event, will assist public health officials in contact tracing, should the need arise.
And of course, there’s something nice and a little bit cheeky about bringing the Mardi Gras – in all of its garish colour and audaciousness – to a traditionally straight-laced venue like the SCG.
As I revealed in my speech at today’s Media Launch (you can see the recording on Facebook here), we want to make the Parade as accessible as possible, so we are setting aside 1,000 free tickets for those in our community who are feeling the impact of COVID-19. I’ll have more to say on this shortly.
We were faced with some hard decisions about Mardi Gras 2021, however we’re proud of the plan we now have in place. We went through every possibility, and this one will ensure we can honour our commitment to you to hold the parade, which has happened every year since it was founded 1978.
RISING TO OUR THEME
As LGTBQI+ people, we know there is great power to be found when people come together into communities to overcome adversity and inequality.
When we come together, we can help lift each other up. We can help each other rise.
When we rise together through love, compassion, respect and understanding, we will all arrive at a better place.
When we rise to the occasion, amazing things happen.
We rise every day to the challenge of being our true selves, of loving who we love, of discovering our own identities, culture and creativity.
2020 has pushed us down for too long, and it is time to rise again. It is time to lift our family in the arts and culture industries and help them rise.
It’s a new dawn and together we will see our spirits rise.
It’s my pleasure to let you know that our theme for the 2021 Mardi Gras Parade is ‘Rise’.
WORKING ALONGSIDE EQUALITY AUSTRALIA
From our survey earlier in the year, we know you want Mardi Gras to have a continued focus on social justice. Last month, I signed on to Equality Australia’s statement against the One Nation Party’s NSW Religion Bill, which would have provided religious institutions the right to discriminate against LGBTQI+ people.
This Bill would have sought to divide our community, in a time where we should be rising and uniting. The Bill would have made it harder for employers, educators and professional bodies to foster inclusive cultures and protect employees, customers and clients from harmful conduct motivated by one person’s beliefs.
TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE 2020
On 20 November and in partnership with The Gender Centre, we will be commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020, which this year will be curated and presented by trans and gender diverse people of colour. Bhenji Ra will be emcee and curate the memorial, supported by around 20 performers.
Due to COVID, it will be an online event. Save the date on Facebook here.
In addition to financial support, we’re lending the skills of our team to help spread the word and ensure as many as possible join to observe the day.
MARDI GRAS x NSW POLICE ACCORD
As many of you may know, the NSW Police entered an Accord (an agreement) with SGLMG to address some of the concerns our community had around policing at Mardi Gras events. In the Accord, the NSW Police signed on to a number of measures to ensure attendees felt safe at all our events.
It has taken some time, but the NSW Police have agreed for us to publish the Accord in full, which you can view here.
The intention now is to initiate a process to review and potentially update this agreement. In light of the issues raised through the Black Lives Matter movement, we are putting a specific emphasis on our First Nations people and LGBTQI+ identifying people of colour, and transgender and gender diverse people looking at how we can help them feel safer at our events.
As such, the intention is to support our First Nations partners, transgender and gender diverse communities as well as our 78rs, to speak with the NSW Police on the challenges they feel are yet to be overcome at our events and how we can address those through an updated Accord. We’re only in the very early stages, but I will be sure to keep you updated as that process progresses.
Many of you have asked how the Ethics Charter is progressing. We have just signed off on a framework to help our ethicists start developing the Charter and we expect it to be completed by early December. There’s a lot of work left to go, but rest assured it’s happening quickly!
I’ll have some further news on the Charter in my next update.
EXPRESS YOURSELF – SUPPORTING EMERGING LGBTQI+ ARTISTS
We also heard from the survey earlier this year that our community wanted Mardi Gras to offer greater support to local artists and talent. That is why last month, we announced a partnership with APRA AMCOS.
With the joint goal of fostering emerging LGBTQI+ music artists, this partnership will see multiple discovery events take place throughout the year, the first of which will take place as DNSW’s Great Southern Nights, an initiative to re-ignite live music events.
Each showcase will feature two emerging LGBTQI+ artists who will perform alongside an established artist to a room of guest judges.
Our partnership with APRA AMCOS is for three years which means there will be 11 showcase events that will run up to, and include, Sydney World Pride.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I have no doubt that you have many questions about how the Parade will work in 2021 and if you do, you are welcome to head to our FAQs page where we hope you will find the information you need. Parade tickets will go on sale tomorrow (Monday) at 2pm. All Mardi Gras members will be emailed a code you can use to book 2 complimentary tickets.
As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Team Mardi Gras. We will be updating you regularly as we get closer to March, and of course will be keeping our website up to date.
Until next time: stay safe, stay happy and stay healthy!
Chief Executive Officer