Get ready to put on your dancing shoes: Sydney is gearing up to host the first WorldPride celebration in the Southern Hemisphere in 2023 and we’ve got the inside scoop on everything you need to know about the festival.
Kicking off on 17 February and running until 5 March, Sydney WorldPride 2023 will see the city host more than 300 events, including 19 official major events, 68 WorldPride Arts experiences, 192 Pride Amplified community events and more.
“The first WorldPride in the Southern Hemisphere is a significant moment for the LGBTQIA+ community in Australia and Sydney,” says Sydney WorldPride’s chief executive, Kate Wickett. “The festival includes an extraordinary array of free and ticketed experiences from concerts to parties, theatre, sports and family events.”
The events calendar includes classic Mardi Gras favourites, such as Mardi Gras Fair Day on 19 February, where more than 200 stalls will pop up in Victoria Park and will include community stalls and retail stalls offering wares made by LGBTQI+ creatives. Bring a picnic blanket; there will be plenty of food trucks and bars and you’ll want to get a good view of the Doggywood pet pageant and mini Vogue Ball – a precursor to Australia’s biggest vogue ball, Mardi Gras Sissy Ball, which will be held at Sydney Town Hall on 4 March. Drawing on an array of dance styles (including voguing), skilled performers will battle it out to be crowned the winner across a range of categories.
From 23 February, Carriageworks will come alive for six days with Marri Madung Butbut (Many Brave Hearts): First Nations Gathering Space – a celebration of the “rainbow heart” of the oldest surviving culture on the planet through a series of exhibitions, theatrical and drag shows as well as dining experiences.
Make your way to The Domain on 24 February for the epic Live and Proud: Sydney WorldPride Opening Concert, where local superstars Kylie Minogue and Jessica Mauboy will share the stage with international pop star Charli XCX and more. Tickets will sell out quickly but you’ll be able to catch all the fun on the ABC, too.
The iconic Mardi Gras Parade finally returns to its spiritual home on Oxford Street on 25 February – the first time since 2020 – just in time for its 45th anniversary. More than 12,500 marchers and more than 200 floats will make their way down the historic street, embodying this year’s theme, Gather, Dream, Amplify. They include Dykes on Bikes, one of the longest-running LGBTQIA+ community groups in Australia, Lifesavers With Pride, a network of Australian lifesavers who represent the rainbow lifesaving community, and Qantas’s own float.
Sydney WorldPride 2023 will also host the biggest LGBTQIA+ Human Rights Conference ever held in the Asia-Pacific region (1-3 March). Expect electrifying talks, panels and roundtable discussions, as well as interactive workshops and events all focused on tackling issues such as Visibility and Inclusion, Justice and Freedom and more. The line-up includes more than 60 international and local guests, including special guest keynote speaker Victor Madrigal-Borloz, United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Rounding out the festivities on 5 March will be the history-making Pride March across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, where 50,000 brightly attired walkers will celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. The walk will also mark the 50th anniversary of the first Australian Gay Pride Week and the fifth anniversary of marriage equality in Australia. Want to join the march? You’ll need to enter the ballot to make the list.
Bloodlines: The Huxleys
Until 5 March,
Melbourne’s premier performance art duo deliver a glittering tribute to a generation of artists lost to HIV/AIDS.
Paul Yore: Word Made Flesh
Until 26 February,
One man’s trash becomes Yore’s treasure in this immersive survey of the artist’s 15-year career. Expect a multimedia installation of found objects, collage, painting and video.
Braving Time: Queer Art in Contemporary Australia
3 February – 18 March, National
Art School, Darlinghurst
Curated by Richard Perram, Braving Time captures what it means to be queer in Australia today.
Powerhouse Late: WorldPride
16 February – 2 March,
Coinciding with its Absolutely Queer exhibition, the museum plays host to three weekly events celebrating Sydney’s queer creative landscape.
Cloak: Queer Science, Fashion & Photography
16 February – 5 March,
UTS Central, Ultimo
LGBTQIA+ scientists working in conservative fields collaborate with fashion designers intent on reinventing the lab coat in an exhibition that proves the disciplines needn’t appear so divergent.
Eulogy for the Dyke Bar
17 February – 5 March, UNSW
American artist Macon Reed resurrects their handmade installation – a nod to the bygone bars claimed by gentrification – as an interactive, fully functioning bar and platform for cross-generational storytelling.
Oxtravaganza and Pride Villages
17 February – 5 March,
Oxford Street and surrounds
Large sections of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst will be closed to traffic to host pedestrian- 45 friendly, day-into-night forums with stalls, performances and street parties.
Heaps Gay Lobby Residency
17 February – 4 March,
Ace Hotel Sydney
Sydney’s eminent queer party planner, Heaps Gay, and the city’s vibiest new lobby bar join forces for three weekends of DJs, performers and artists.
18 February – 9 July,
State Library of NSW, Sydney
The library opens its archives to present stories from historically marginalised groups.
Living History Walk: The Golden Mile
18 February, opposite Paddington
Town Hall, Oxford Street, Paddington
Spend two hours under the guidance of queer historian St Robert of the Rainbow Chronicles and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as they take you on a colourful stroll along the city’s singular strip.
Disco on the Green, World Dance Record
Marrickville Bowling Club, Marrickville
Regardless of whether or not this attempt at breaking a world record for “the largest disco dance lesson” is successful, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend an afternoon. All ages welcome.
Mardi Gras Fair Day
19 February, Victoria Park,
Mardi Gras festivities commence in earnest each year at Fair Day, an all-welcome, all-day-long, all-ages, pet-friendly free-for-all.
Lip Sync Heroes
19 February – 5 March,
The Imperial, Erskineville
If lip-syncing is the unofficial sport of the queer community, this three-week Sunday-night showdown might be World Pride’s Grand Final. Just what this country needs.
Queer Art After Hours
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
AGNSW’s after-hours program is reimagined as a queer fantasia with live performances, installations and workshops led by LGBTQIA+ artists in the new Sydney Modern wing.
Mardi Gras Parade
25 February, Oxford Street,
Darlinghurst and surrounds
The world-renowned parade makes its return to Oxford Street on the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ 45th anniversary – a celebration of pride and protest that’s anything but pedestrian.
Queer Mart: A Darlo Makers Market
26 February, Australian Design
Spend the morning after Mardi Gras in search of handmade wares from local makers, with 20 stallholders selected by artists Nikita Majajas and Jeff McCann.
Coming Out, Coming Home
27 February – 5 March, Hurstville
Museum & Gallery, Hurstville
The search for home in exile is the concern of this interactive project for the Queer Chinese in Australia community, which finds its expression in photography, installation and documentary-style storytelling.
On the final day of Marri Madung Butbut: The First Nations Gathering Space, leading local and international First Nations artists come together to celebrate the world’s oldest continuous living culture through a showcase of Blak drag excellence. All ages welcome.
Genext x Pride
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Check out a major takeover of this museum by young people aged 12 to 18. What’s in store? Music, dancing and... art.
Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney
Celebrate the successes and struggles of global equality and inclusion as 50,000 people cross the iconic harbour on this historic sunrise march.
To see the full events calendar and book your tickets visit Sydney WorldPride 2023.
Image Credit: DNSW, Anna Kucera, Jacquie Manning, Ann-Marie Calilhanna, Peter Hughes