Mardi Gras has kicked off, and it’s set to hold onto its title as one of Sydney’s most iconic festivals. From Friday 19th February, Sydneysiders will be treated to a huge celebration of LGBTQIA+ culture over two rather colourful weeks. There are many events on the festival calendar, including comedy, music, theatre performances, exhibitions and parties in the lead-up to the famously colourful Mardi Gras parade on Saturday 6th March.
As always, among the singing, dancing, and discussing, the festival has a theme. This year’s theme is ‘RISE’, a call to action that now is the time to rise again through love, compassion, respect and understanding. The theme is a poignant message following the challenge and hardship of 2020, with Parade entries incorporating it into their final concepts.
These are some of the highlights on the 2021 calendar.
Like the rainbow community it represents, the 43rd Mardi Gras Parade will be as colourful a carnival as ever. It’s the ultimate celebration of acceptance and self-expression, and will take place in Sydney Cricket Ground, the first time it has been held away from iconic Oxford Street. Bright colours and all things glittery are encouraged on the absolutely gorgeous floats, and dancers and marchers will set the scene for a fun night. There are no tickets left to watch the parade at the SCG, so you can watch the parade live on SBS.
Saturday 6th March, from 6pm
Sydney Cricket Ground, Driver Avenue, Moore Park
This Mardi Gras, Kings Cross Hotel will again become Queens Cross Hotel with the help of its fabulous drag queen friends, Miss Danni Issues and The Liquor Sisters. As well as the exterior of the venue becoming Queens Cross Hotel, these Queens Of The X will be styling an entire floor each, putting their personal touch on the spaces in both design and entertainment.
Come boogie with Danni Issues in her Studio 54-inspired "Danni's Disco" on balcony level 2, or have a gossip and schooner of Pure Blonde outside The Liquor Sisters’ trailer in their "Trailer Trash But Make It Fashion"-inspired ground floor takeover. Catch all the parade action on the big screens live and loud and you could be in with a chance to win tickets in the post parade performance at QXH’s parade party followed by "The Ladies Of The 80's" drag show presented by The Queens Of The X. The whole of QXH will be celebrating long into the night with fantastic DJs and Mardi Gras-inspired cocktails.
Until 15th March
Kings Cross Hotel, 244-248 William Street, Kings Cross
Tune into TikTok Australia's account for this one of a kind digital event, where you'll get to meet some of their key LGBTQIA+ creators, who will discuss what matters to their online community. TikTok superstar Lawrence Bing will chat trans-visibility on TikTok, reflect on the history of Sydney's Mardi Gras Festival and give kudos to the pioneers who began it, and share his favourite Mardi Gras memes. Internationally acclaimed drag legend Courtney Act will be the MC, Emma Horn and Louis Hanson will chat about their own glow-ups, there will be a performance from G Flip, along with games, dancing, and much more. It's going to be glamorous, it's going to be enlightening and it's going to be fun.
Wednesday 3rd March, from 7pm
Absolut and Merivale have released the official Mardi Gras cocktail, Absolut Banger. The cocktail is a delicious mix of Absolut Lime, Lillet Blanc, passionfruit, granny smith apple and lots of love, and can be purchased exclusively during the Mardi Gras season across a number of Merivale venues. From each cocktail sold across the group, $2 will be donated to the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation and ACON.
Until 7th March
Check the full list of venues here
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.
Friday 18th February – Sunday 7th March
Oxford Streets and surrounds
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.
Thursday 18th February- Thursday 4th March
Various venues and online
To sip the day away, round up your friends and make your way to the POOF DOOF x Pool Club Drag Brunch party at the luxurious Ivy Pool Bar. Decked out with palm trees, cabanas, handsome lifeguards, disco balls and local DJ's, this is the perfect way to celebrate all things Summer and Mardi Gras.
Saturdays from 20th February, from 12pm
Ivy Pool Club- Level 4, 320 George Street, Sydney
Practice your strut ahead of the Mardi Gras parade by heading to Misfits. Hosted by April Fools this is a party like no other, head up the stairs and enter through the secret bookcase for an evening of the best KWEEN music out there by DJ ENN. Look the part by getting a sparkly touch up at the glitter station and refuel by nestling into a booth with a sparkling fairy floss cocktail and some luminous oysters.
Friday 5th March, from 6pm
Misfits- 106 George Street, Redfern
Queer Thinking is Mardi Gras’ program of talks where audiences are invited to unpack a range of issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community both in Australia and abroad in thought-provoking conversations about the world we live in, with panels curated by Julie McCrossin AM, Benjamin Law and Patrick Abboud.
Saturday 27th February, from 2pm
From $19 per session, $59 for a three-session pass
NSW Teachers Federation, 37 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills
Hosted at Merivale's The Beresford by Sydney drag queens Charisma Belle and Naomi Palmer, Bingay is a bingo night for adults. Expect naughty calls, cheeky banter, prizes and giveaways throughout the night. All funds raised will be donated to ACON, a NSW-based health services organisation for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Thursday 25th February, from 6:30pm
The Beresford- 354 Bourke Street, Surry Hills