The Vision of Mardi Gras

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival first started in 1978, when 2,000 people marched down Oxford Street to celebrate their love and promote the LGBTI culture. They repeated the march the following year, and the year after, with the parade growing bigger and stronger every year to 10,000 participants in 2015.

Today, Mardi Gras is an institution in New South Wales as much as it is a massive party, bringing together thousands of people in the parade itself and 40,000 to 70,000 people on Fair Day, which is the most anticipated family activity of the festival.

As well as Fair Day, the Mardi Gras committee put on a spectacular program of events, taking place between 19 February and 6 March this year, including shows from Australian and international celebrities. Michele Bauer, CEO of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, tells about her vision for the festival.

Michele Bauer

What were the highlights from last year's Mardi Gras?

There were so many great events last year. For example, Jake Shears performed a solo show at The Beresford; our International Ambassador, Courtney Act, returned for a second year performing with Bianca del Rio and being on the Gay380 Qantas float. On the social justice front, we partnered with Amnesty International's New South Wales LGBTI and ARTillery Networks and the Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust to deliver the Amnesty campaign 'My Body, My Rights.'

This year we have opened up the program to broaden our horizons. The community is made up of a diverse range of people, so to reflect this in our program, we have reworked a few of the events to appeal to a greater portion of our communities. As always we have a few surprises up our sleeves, so stay tuned!

How many volunteers are going to take part in the events this year, in 2016?

We get up to 1,500 volunteers, depending on the requirement of each event.

What's the objective of Sydney Mardi Gras and how does it help the LGBTI community?

Mardi Gras provides a platform for people to express themselves and enables them to voice the issues that matter to them in a safe environment. As marriage equality is a hot topic this year both locally and internationally, I am sure it will feature highly in the parade. If people walk away feeling joy and happiness and are motivated to be themselves fully and continue to pursue their passion, we have done our job!

If you had unlimited budget or resources for Mardi Gras, what would you do?

The most important part of the event is the experience. You can make an amazing experience for someone on a $2 budget or a $60 million budget. But in the end it is all about providing an engaging experience for the community, no matter the cost.

What are you looking forward to this Mardi Gras?

All of it! The program is so varied; from visual arts, to theatre, to film, to The Parade, to outdoor family activities; all together it is a two week long celebration with a fun and happy vibe.

For more information read Unforgettable Experiences at Sydney Mardi Gras.