Bondi to keep its share of Mardi Gras party, but it doesn’t come cheapNovember 15, 2023
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A dance party for 15,000 people on Bondi Beach is set to become a regular feature of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras after organisers confirmed several highlights from this year’s WorldPride festival will return in February.
Launching the Mardi Gras 2024 program on Friday, NSW Arts and Tourism Minister John Graham said the event would be “really important to lifting Sydney again to reach its potential” as the city continued to recover from a decade of lockout laws and the fallout from COVID lockdowns.
Kendal Walto from The Dykes On Bikes, drag king and glamourboi Sexy Galexy, Sarah Tierney from The Dykes On Bikes and club kid James Vidigal.Credit: Louise Kennerley
However, ticket prices were immediately controversial amid the cost-of-living crunch, advertised at $239 plus booking fees for the Bondi event and the Mardi Gras parade after-party at the Hordern Pavilion. Last year, tickets for those events started at $179 and $155 respectively.
“The whole thing is a blatant money grab,” said 33-year-old Rob Milano from Sydney. Others said the prices were expensive but worth it.
Organisers said they wanted to keep ticket prices at a flat rate for all, rather than offer multiple releases that get more expensive. “This means no surprises, and no rush,” they said. There are discounted tickets available for Indigenous Australians and people suffering financial hardship, while some festival events are free.
Last year’s WorldPride event, a biennial global party Sydney won the rights to host, was pitched as the event that would reopen Sydney to the world after the pandemic, and attracted 100,000 visitors from NSW, interstate and overseas.
Graham said there was still much more to do to return Oxford Street, the city’s traditional LGBTQ epicentre, to full glory. The state government is pursuing a precinct approach to reviving Sydney’s nightlife by encouraging venues and other businesses to cluster and co-operate in certain areas.
“The way the government’s thinking about rebuilding the city is rebuilding almost neighbourhood by neighbourhood, community by community. It’s not going to come back all the same,” Graham said. “This is one of the communities that will help lift the city to its potential fastest.”
Graham said the government would introduce a bill to ban gay conversion therapy into parliament before Christmas, though he could not commit to it becoming law before Mardi Gras starts in mid-February.
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras chief executive Gil Beckwith and Lord Mayor Clover Moore noted lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer people still faced discrimination and violence, including in Sydney.
Beckwith said there was no guarantee an LGBTQ person could safely hold their partner’s hand in public, or an LGBTQ student could take their partner to their school formal – a reference to the recent controversy at St Ursula’s College in Kingsgrove. “Such simple things can sometimes be so difficult for all of us,” she said.
Moore, who is convening a mayoral forum on threats and violence against LGBTQ people after numerous incidents on Oxford Street, said such events were “a stark reminder there is still more to do to achieve equality in this state”.
Mardi Gras 2024 will also feature the return of WorldPride women’s party Ultra Violet to the National Art School, while five new events have been added including Hot Trans Summer, a trans and gender diverse takeover of luxury party boat Glass Island, and Festival First Light, a citywide Welcome to Country led by Indigenous elders.
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