Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Will Go Ahead From A New Spot Next Year, & It’ll Be Ticketed

Next year’s Mardi Gras will look very different.

Despite the global pandemic, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is still officially going ahead in 2021 – with a couple of plot twists.

For the first year ever, the annual event will move from its iconic location of Oxford Street to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Not only that, it'll also scrap its usual format, where tens of thousands stand to watch the parade. Instead, the celebration will accommodate up to 23,000 seated spectators only, each charged a $20 admission.

Of course, we have COVID to thank for the changes. "Mardi Gras has always been the epitome of creative expression through art and culture; two things severely impacted by COVID-19 this year," said Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger via the ABC.

He continued, saying the 43rd event would "look different to how it has been in the past" and that it would "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 also explained that the SCG was chosen as it was close to Mardi Gras' "spiritual home of Oxford Street" but that it's also the safest venue to hold the event, while still meeting the requirements of physical distancing and contact tracing.
This year's event theme is 'RISE' – a sentiment Kruger reckons is a "poignant message during the challenge and hardship that 2020 has presented, a nod to the direction Mardi Gras is moving towards."

"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."

The parade will be the centrepiece for a programme called Always On, a series of events and initiatives in 2021 designed to help the LGBTQ+ community as it adjusts to life during COVID. 

Australia's first-ever Mardi Gras began in Darlinghurst in 1978, when a group of people went along to a march celebrating gays and lesbians. The horrors of that night are well documented. The ensuing police violence and arrest became a defining moment for Sydney's LGBTQIA+ community, leading to many marching in a parade the following year. 

The event has had many iterations since, but Mardi Gras as we now know it has exploded in size and in style, and it normally attracts thousands of overseas visitors too. 

We interviewed some 78ers earlier this year to chat through their experiences on that night, and what they make of Mardi Gras today. Head here for their stories.

Next year's Mardi Gras will take place on Saturday, March 6, 2021. Tickets to attend will go on sale on Monday. It will also be broadcast live on TV, so those who miss out can watch along instead.

Written by Sangeeta Kocharekar, an American-born, Sydney-based writer at MTV. Photos from her pre-COVID-19 days as a travel writer are at @sangeetatatiana.

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