The 2021 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade changed locations from Oxford Street to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) this year, but it was still bursting with more colour, glitter, pride and passion than ever on Saturday night.
Tens of thousands of locals turned out to watch community groups take centre stage in the stadium on various floats, as well as celebrity performances from the likes of Rita Ora, Montaigne, Sneaky Sound System, G Flip and Electric Fields, plus the RuPaul’s Drag Race cast reveal.
Ben Graetz delivered a Welcome to Country to open the official proceedings which featured John Leha and singer/songwriter Scott Hunter, as well as Koomurri dancers, NAISDA dancers and Buuja Butterfly dancers.
After that the Dykes on Bikes performed a lap to signal the start of the parade led with the First Nations and 78ers floats.
“We usually have 150 to 200 bikes for the parade,” said Dykes on Bikes president Emily Saunders, explaining the coronavirus pandemic has affected participation. “This year we have 68 bikes.”
The First Nations float had a strong message for spectators, paying tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement as it paraded in the stadium.
“Black lives still matter,” said Jack Williams who was part of the float.
“It’s an ongoing fight and we’re here and ready to continue to fight for our people. The costumes we’re wearing this year, it’s to give away the look of a military vibe because we’re fighting against police brutality and the murders in custody of Black people.
“Our key messages this year for our float are fighting against deaths in custody, we’re fighting for our brother boys and sister girls and we’re fighting for a positive community.”
Other organisations that had floats included SWOP (which supports sex workers and community), Colour of our Community and Neurodiversity Rainbow, while Tik Tok, NRL, L’Oreal Australia, NSW Police and Taronga Conservation Society Australia also joined the parade with floats.
In its 43rd year, the Mardi Gras celebrations were moved to the SCG due to COVID-19.
“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,” said Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger.
Kruger said ahead of the event that Oxford Street remains the “spiritual home” of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebrations, but the new location allows physical distancing and contract tracing requirements to be met.
The theme for 2021 is ‘Rise’, a timely one given the challenges of this year, calling for people to rise again through love, compassion, respect and understanding.
“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,” said Kruger.
With the event broadcast on TV for those who couldn’t attend in person, this year’s SBS hosts were drag queen Courtney Act, TV presenter Narelda Jacobs, and comedians Joel Creasey and Zoë Coombs Marr.
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