It’s that fabulous time of year again, friends. Mardi Gras season is upon us. And while we’re still very much in the pandemic times, the celebration of LGBTQIA+ pride is still going ahead – even if it looks a little different this year. Sydney’s Mardi Gras festival for 2021 kicked off on Friday, February 19, and will run through until Sunday, March 7.
So, if you’re wondering how you can get involved in the extravaganza for 2021, we’re here to help.
Here’s your guide to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras events for the year
The Mardi Gras Parade
The Mardi Gras Parade for 2021 will naturally play out a little differently this year. Instead of your standard floats with glitter-coated (sustainable, please!) audiences lining Oxford Street, the parade will be set at Sydney Cricket Ground.
On Saturday, March 6 the ticketed event will see a group of performers fill the stadium with colour, costumes and wild props. While this year’s parade will be a new way of celebrating Mardi Gras, it’s still expected that 5,000 performers and over 100 LGBTQI+ groups will be taking to the grounds.
The festival theme for 2021 is ‘RISE’ and the website describes this as “letting our spirits soar after the challenge and hardship that 2020 presented”.
As of January 4, Sydney Mardi Gras announced that ticket sales were being paused with additional details to come. Watch this space for more.
How to watch the Sydney Mardi Gras parade from home
If you, like a lot of us, are not able to attend the parade this year, don’t panic. You can still tune into the glamour and glory of it all from home. SBS On Demand will be airing the event live on March 6, 2021. They’ve also removed geo-blocking so Mardi Gras lovers abroad can tune into the parade, no matter their location.
Timings across Australia for the live airing are:
NSW/VIC/TAS/ACT: 6pm AEDT
QLD: 5pm AEST
SA: 5:30pm ACDT
WA: 3pm AWST
NT: 4:30pm ACST
Food and drink:
Merivale and Absolut Vodka have announced that they will be offering a selection of fierce Mardi Gras restaurant packages for those looking to celebrate pride on March 6 in Sydney. So, if you’re thirsty for a sweet deal check them out below.
For $95pp The Beresford is offering:
- Three-course set menu brunch
- An Absolut Banger cocktail on arrival
- Live ‘Spice Girls’ drag show
- Live DJ set from DJ Dan Murphy
For $129pp The Paddington is offering:
- Shared banquet dining experience
- Live DJ sets & entertainment
- Cocktail on arrival
For $129pp the Queens Hotel is offering:
- Set menu dining experience
- Live DJ sets & entertainment
For $139pp Bar Totti’s is offering:
- Share-style antipasti menu
- Live DJ sets & entertainment
Obviously, being in the time we are, it is worth keeping an eye out on the latest news and restrictions around COVID-19 when planning for any event. But, for the moment, these babies are going ahead. And if you’re one of the first 500 people to snap up these deals, you’ll get a complimentary ticket to the parade, too.
Merivale has also dropped a number of hotel package deals for your pals that may be visiting from out of town. Check those out here.
Other fun Mardi Gras events
TikTok LIVE on parade week
Wednesday 3rd March, 7pm AEDT
TikTok Australia is hosting a live celebration of Sydney’s Mardi Gras with appearances from Lawrence Bing, Emma Horn and Louis Hanson. Courtney Act will be acting as MC and audiences will be treated to a performance from G Flip.
Here’s a list of other highlights to keep in mind for this year’s festival. All synopses have been shared by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival.
Laugh Out Proud
Friday 26 February, Enmore Theatre
“After a sold out inaugural event in February 2020, Mardi Gras’ comedy gala is back for a night of belly laughs with Australia’s best and brightest LGBTQI+ comedians. Featuring a stellar line-up of hilarious queer stand-up talent, Laugh Out Proud is Mardi Gras’ comedy event of the year! Hosted by the award-winning Nath Valvo, Laugh Out Proud has loads of comedic talent for one incredible night only – including: Geraldine Hickey, Mel Buttle, Thomas Jaspers, Rosie Piper, Margot Tanjutco, Selina Jenkins, Jake Howie, Nina Oyama and Jay Wymarra.”
My Trans Story
Friday 26 February, 2021, NSW Teachers Federation Auditorium
“At a time when the trans experience is becoming more visible we still rarely see stories by trans and gender diverse people on a screen, in theatres, a bookshelf or in popular culture and when we do, they focus on coming out and surgery or discrimination and hate crimes. From the personal to the political My Trans Story features proud trans and gender diverse storytellers from Sydney and beyond, including Tea Uglow, Andrew Guy, Rusty Nannup Joel Murray, Olivia Stewart and Victoria Anthony, celebrating their complex, sometimes funny, often fearless, always fierce histories.”
Mardi Gras Film Festival
Thursday 18th February – Thursday 4th March, Various venues and online.
“With 90+ films in the program and over 50% being available to stream on-demand Australia wide, there are so many ways you can experience Queer Screen’s 28th Mardi Gras Film Festival. Highlights include, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in the moving Supernova; the very timely The Obituary of Tunde Johnson that brings to the forefront the issue of racism and police brutality; the incredible chemistry of rising star Vanessa Kirby and Katherine Waterston in The World to Come, and one of the most celebrated films of the last year Suk Suk.”
Queer Nu Werk: Werk Harder
Wednesday 3 March, Universal Sydney
“In a special edition, Performance Space curates a lineup of Sydney’s leading queer contemporary and experimental artists in a raucous celebration of queer performance, queer bodies and queer perspectives. Full line-up announcement to come.”
SKIN DEEP presented by NAS Queer Contemporary
Thursday 18th February – Sunday 7th March, National Art School
“SKIN DEEP is an interactive exhibition that presents intimate and personal stories of LGBTQI+ people through their tattooed bodies and stories, celebrating diversity, defiance and body art. The Exhibition is made up of several unique components – presented as one integrated audience experience or as separate experiences. LGBTQI+ community participation is central to all components of SKIN DEEP – as narrators, models, story tellers and performers.”
Friday 18th February – Sunday 7th March, Oxford Streets and surrounds
“Now in its fifth year, Oxford Street’s annual Oxtravaganza is back, bigger and bolder than ever, with celebrations and activations over the full two weeks of the Mardi Gras program. This celebration of Oxford Street will see 100+ local businesses coming together to offer special retail promotions, live music, viewing parties, exclusive performances, outdoor entertainment, art walks, plus food and drink deals.”
If you’d like to celebrate the LGBTQI+ community in a more low-key way this year, you can also consider hosting a Picnic for Pinnacle. From February 6 to 21, The Pinnacle Foundation (an organisation dedicated to helping LGBTQI+ youth access education and mentoring) is encouraging Aussies to host a picnic to help fundraise for this important cause. So, grab yourself some snacks and bubbly and have a conversation that could help some young Aussies get ahead in life.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.