Australia’s beloved Mardi Gras parade will change dramatically in 2021, moving from Oxford St to a ticketed event at the Sydney Cricket Ground due to COVID.
An image from Mardi Gras, 2016. Photo: Tripping the Light/Shutterstock
Undoubtedly the most celebrated event on the calendar for the LGBTQI+ community, Mardi Gras will next year shift from a bustling street parade on Oxford Street to a $20 ticketed event at the SCG in Moore Park.
The parade was born from a night of political protest in 1978 and has brought both Sydney and Australia to a standstill with hundreds and thousands of people lining the streets to celebrate diversity and equality.
The decision to move the parade to the SCG – where a capacity of 23,000 audience members will watch on – is to ensure the safety of parade participants, spectators and the community at large said Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger.
‘Mardi Gras has always been the epitome of creative expression through art and culture; two things severely impacted by COVID-19 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,’ Kruger said. ‘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.’
Moving away from some of its large scale floats which have delighted onlookers in years past, the new-look Mardi Gras will be quite different.
‘With 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,’ Kruger said.
With a limited capacity of 23,000 at SCG, Mardi Gras have worked with NSW Health to develop a COVID safe event plan so the parade can go forward.
‘Not only is the SCG close to our spiritual home of Oxford Street, but it also provides the safest venue for us to hold the event and meet requirements of physical distancing and contact tracing,’ said Kruger.
Rising up for a COVID-safe event
The 2021 Mardi Gras theme is RISE a poignant message during the challenge and hardship that 2020 has presented, and a nod to the direction Mardi Gras is moving towards with their 'Always On' vision – a community consultation process to better understand how the LGBTQI+ community would like to see Mardi Gras represent them in the future.
The theme is a call to action that now is the time to rise again through love, compassion, respect and understanding, and to work together to make the world a better place for all.
In addition to the event plan at SCG, Mardi Gras have been working with NSW Health on a number of different COVID-safe plans to stage additional events, like the popular Fair Day, in 2021. Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she commended the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for adapting to the challenges presented by COVID.
‘It is poignant that this year’s parade was the last major event held before we had to go into lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. I know many in our community, myself included, have held onto our happy memories of Mardi Gras 2020 to get us through this challenging year,' Moore said.
‘Mardi Gras will look different in 2021 but importantly it will give us the opportunity to come together safely and celebrate. Of course I look forward to the day when tens of thousands of Sydneysiders and visitors from around Australia and the world can gather on Oxford Street once more.’
Parade partner SBS will broadcast the entire event live, so revellers from across Australia can tune-in to be a part of the celebrations from the comfort of their homes.
Tickets for the live Parade spectacle go on sale on the Mardi Gras website on Monday 9 November. Mardi Gras members will receive two complimentary tickets to the event.