The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade took over the Sydney Cricket Ground in a dazzling display of self-expression, proving that not even a global pandemic can stop LGBTQI+ communities rising together in pride and passion.
A stadium crowd of 36,000 spectators cheered on as 5,000 marchers, from over 120 parade entries, marched onto the field in a vibrant display of diversity and unity. Parade partner SBS broadcast the event live to hundreds of thousands of homes and viewing parties across the country. Catch up with SBS's Parade coverage via SBS On Demand here and see our photo gallery here.
From Broken Hill to Cairns, 30 venues across Australia were awarded grants to hold official parade viewing parties. Established by Mardi Gras and Facebook Australia, the initiative was designed to extend the reach of Mardi Gras across the country and support the hospitality and arts sector hit hard by the impact of COVID-19.
The theme for the 2021 Parade was RISE, a call to action that now is the time to rise again through love, compassion, respect and understanding. A poignant message following the challenge and hardship of 2020, Parade entries incorporated the theme into their final concepts.
“This year’s Mardi Gras was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger. “With a reworked COVID-Safe format, our iconic Parade definitely looked different to how it has in the past, but even in this new setup, Mardi Gras continues to be celebration of who we are and what we’ve achieved, as well as a moment for us to advocate for the change we need to see in the future.”
“Among the colourful costumes and beating music, the spirit of protest was as strong as it ever has been. Because, while Australia has made so many strides since 1978, we haven’t achieved equality.”
“Today, faith-based service providers, including schools, can lawfully turn us away, even when they receive public funding to deliver their essential services. Trans Australians are vilified, struggle to access critical healthcare and face insurmountable hurdles to updating their ID documents to reflect who they are.”
“These are just some of the issues that remain unaddressed in our society. Working together, we have an opportunity to change things. The Parade was just one moment where we could come together to rise for equality, but our work doesn’t start and end with the Parade,” said Kruger.
The Parade, having temporarily relocated to a COVID-safe venue at the SCG, was an unrivalled stadium spectacular featuring a superstar line-up of performances from the likes of electronic duo Electric Fields, ARIA Award-winning art-pop songwriter Montaigne, and indie pop darling G Flip, presented by TikTok.
UK powerhouse Rita Ora closed the festivities with an epic headline performance of her hit tracks “Let Me Love You”, “Bang Bang”, “BIG”, and “Anywhere”.
A few surprises wowed audiences on the night including a video message from Michelle Visage and comedian Rhys Nicholson, revealing the fabulous and fierce local drag queens competing to be the first Drag Race Superstar in the Stan Original series RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. The 10 queens revealed are Art Simone, Coco Jumbo, Etcetera Etcetera, Elektra Shock, Jojo Zaho, Karen From Finance, Maxi Shield, Scarlet Adams, Anita Wigl’it and Kita Mean.
Reflecting on the night, Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger said, “The Parade has gone ahead every year since 1978, no matter what, so we’re very happy we could continue to honour this commitment and deliver a safe event for our community during these times.”
“We look forward to returning to our home on Oxford Street as soon as we can, but if the last 12 months has taught us anything it’s that our community are resilient. We have faced many challenges throughout history and we have always found a way to celebrate, to express ourselves and have our voices heard. Last night was proof of this.”