As is turns out, the event will still be going ahead but with a venue change. The iconic Sydney parade is being moved out of its historic Oxford Street location to none other than the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The parade floats that normally flow down Oxford Street will now lap around the Sydney Cricket Ground area.
The coronavirus and the resulting social distancing restrictions have caused the cancellation of many big public events like the Sydney Easter Show and a whole host of concerts including Spilt Milk, Harry Styles' Australian tour and the anticipated return of My Chemical Romance to our shores.
But it was announced on November 5 2020 that the Sydney Mardi Gras will still be going ahead on March 6 2021 in spite of the current state of affairs.
Of course there will be a number of new safety and distancing regulations. In addition to the venue change, all attendees will be required to remain seated for the event unless heading to the bathroom or for refreshments. It's said that the event will also move away from overly large parade floats.
The venue will allow for 23,000 attendees and in an interesting turn - the event will be ticketed. But SBS is on board at the Parade Partner and will televise the event for those who are unable to attend.
“The team at Mardi Gras have worked tirelessly with NSW Health to develop a COVID Safe event plan to ensure the Parade can go forward and we’re excited by the prospect of staging the event at the SCG," says Albert Kruger Mardi Gras CEO.
"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."
The first Mardi Gras started as an act of defiance and protest on June 24, 1978 with the intention of marching to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Held at night, as many LGBTQI+ folks risked losing their jobs should they be caught demonstrating, the peaceful protest began at Taylor Square on Oxford St. Folks moved down Oxford street in peaceful celebration, chanting 'Out of the bars and into the streets' to encourage other LGBTQI+ folks to join in.
After a run-in with the police on their intended route, protestors scattered to Kings Cross, where they were met with Police brutality and 53 arrests, the result of which ended in the loss of jobs, ex-communication, homelessness and in some cases, suicide.
Since then, Oxford Street has marked the protest ground of those who paved the way for LGBTQI+ liberation in Australia and serves as a reminder of the resilience of the community, a key consideration in the annual Mardi Gras parade. For many, including the 78ers Group - which is the group of LGBTQI+ folks involved in the 1978 gay liberation protests in Sydney - who lead the Mardi Gras parade each year. With the news of the location shift and the ever-growing corporate commodification of the event in mind, we're beginning to wonder if the spirit of Mardi Gras could be left on the pavements of Oxford Street.
The theme for the 2021 Mardi Gras is ‘RISE’ a fitting and a poignant message of hope for all during this time.
Tickets for the live Parade spectacle go on sale Monday November 9 here at www.mardigras.org.au. Applications for parade entry and for volunteers also open on Monday November 9. Mardi Gras members will receive two complimentary tickets.