There’s more to this season than most think.
With over two weeks of shenanigans, Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is loaded with all sorts of queerness. But most of us usually stick to those popular events.
Everyone knows about the fabulous Fair Day at Victoria Park (Sunday 16 February) and, of course, the parade along Oxford Street (Saturday 29 February). And not to mention the already sold-out party at Moore Park that happens after the parade. But guess what? There’s more!
Think queer art, quirky dance parties, rainbow-laced shopping and dining and not to forget, upscaled frivolity. So, we’re skipping the well-known stuff and discovering all the unique events that make Sydney’s Mardi Gras season a gay soiree.
The theme of this year’s mardi gras celebrations is “What Matters”, and we’re sticking to it here. It’s always the lesser-known stuff that matters.
Queer cabaret icon, Yana Alana presents a brand new show created specifically for Mardi Gras that explores what it means to be queer and fabulous. F*ck Fabulous protests the commodification of queer culture, rejecting the silly idea of a single uniform queer identity and celebrating all the forms that queerness can come in. Featuring comedian Krishna Istha, performance artist Nicci Wilks, circus icon Jess Love, dance duet Glitter & Snatch, aerial contortionist Seth Sladen, drag king Koko Ma$$, drummer Bec Matthews and queen of queer cabaret Yana Alana.
F*ck Fabulous / Wednesday 19 February – Sunday 23 February / Cnr City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale
Blending absurd and outrageous drag and burlesque with scintillating choreography, Yummy has developed a world-wide cult following. The iconic group of performers from Melbourne perform in some of the world’s biggest shows, but when they come together in YUMMY something truly special happens. Join Valerie Hex, Hannie Helsden, Jandruze, Zelia Rose, and Benjamin Hancock as they lead a wave of outrageous and joyful queer cabaret.
Yummy Unleashed / Wednesday 26 February – Friday 28 February / Cnr City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale
Join an incredible line up of LGBTQI+ musicians as they pay tribute to popular queer artists, performing covers and renditions of the songs that helped shape our identities and define our communities. Whether they’re songs of protest or pounding dancefloor hits, they’ll be reminiscent of speakers mounted precariously on garish parade floats. But most importantly, they are songs made famous by LGBTQI+ artists!
Homage / Thursday 20 February / Cnr City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale
Colour The Streets
The Streets of Barangaroo will thrive with colour and candidness this Mardi Gras with its third year of Colour the Streets. While the big night of Bingay has expectedly sold out, there is still a Drag and Dine evening hosted by Sydney queen Prada Clutch and a fortnight of rainbow happy hour.
In an evening of fun and frivolity, Prada will roam the Wulugul Walk waterfront restaurants in Barangaroo on Thursday 27 February. Simply book a table at one of the restaurants for the evening! On top of this, there’s the rainbow happy hour. Nine retailers and eateries in the area have joined forces to offer rainbow-laced dishes, cocktails and limited edition trinkets between 3 pm and 6 pm daily throughout the Mardi Gras season.
Colour The Streets / Friday 14 February – Sunday 1 March / Wulugul Walk, Sydney NSW 2000
Welcome Here, Tramsheds
Tramsheds is getting in on the action this Mardi Gras, celebrating their newly announced membership with the Sydney community health ‘Welcome Here’ project. The diversity-focused project started in 1998 and helps local business owners and organisations to promote safe environments for the LGBTQI+ community. A huge rainbow flag made from florals will suspend from the urban ceiling beams at the entrance to the Tramsheds, as well as rainbow dressed escalators and a photo opportunity in Artisan Lane.
As well as the fancy art, Sydney’s iconic superhero drag queen, Wonder Mama, will be hosting story time and rainbow umbrella painting in Artisan Lane on Saturday 15 February between 10am and 1pm. Wonder Mama will share stories on inclusivity, including A Tale of Two Daddies, Mommy, Mumma and Me and A Family is a Family. The following Saturday (22 February) sees the glitter bar on Artisan Lane open between 12pm and 2pm.
Welcome Here, Tramsheds / Saturday 15 February and Saturday 22 February / – 1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge NSW 2037
The Pink Mile, otherwise known as Oxford Street, will get flaunty and fabulous on Saturday 22 February as 100+ businesses in and around the strip offer up a variety of fun events and specials from midday to late. Think retail activations, live dj sets, cabaret, outdoor jiving and special offers in an unconventional and accepting space where anything goes and everyone is welcome.
The event’s charity partner is ACON, NSW’s leading sexuality and gender diverse health organisation. Donations to the charity will be collected on the day at many of the various venues.
Oxtravaganza / Saturday 22 February / Oxford St, Sydney NSW
Queer Art After Hours
In its fourth year running, the Art Gallery of NSW blossoms with gaiety in the free event called Queer Art After Hours. Inspire that gorgeous mind of yours in a wonderland of art, ideas, colour, movement and sound, with all the creativity being influenced by this year’s theme of “What Matters”. Explore queer art history with highlights from the archives and watch rare queer film shorts in a tribute to 20 years of the gallery’s pioneering film program. Awaken new perspectives on artworks through eye-opening tours. raise a glass at their pop-up bars and make an exhibition of yourself with hands-on art workshops.
Queer Art After Hours / Wednesday 26 February / Art Gallery Rd, Sydney NSW 2000
Drag Diva Lip Sync Battles
The Winery’s three-day drag queen lip-syncing battle is back for another round of fun. Hosted by Sydney Drag Royalty, each night the quirky queens will perform to classic pop hits over three heats. On 26th February, it’s Kylie vs Pink; 27th is Shania Twain vs Christina Aguilera, and Adele vs Madonna on the 28th. Those ready to upstage the drag queens can take part in the audience battle for the chance to win $100 vouchers. Click the link below for tickets ($20), which includes a complimentary drink on arrival.
Drag Diva Lip Sync Battles / Wednesday 26 February – Friday 28 February / 285A Crown St, Surry Hills
Koori Gras, produced by Moogahlin Performing Arts, returns for another year of incredible queer Indigenous workshops and performances. Whip up a stunning drag persona at Blak Diva For a Day, a one-day workshop for community members to come along and dress up as their inner drag persona on Saturday 15 February. Be dazzled by Sydney’s most prestigious Indigenous drag queens and kings at Black Nulla on Saturday 22 February. Or, get creative at Yellamundie Queer Blak, a one-week writing workshop from Monday 17-Saturday 25 February for emerging queer Indigenous artists.
Koori Gras / Various dates / Seymour Centre and Carriageworks
After two phenomenal sell-out years, Sissy Ball has established itself as Australia’s avante-garde vogue ball. Taking over the Enmore Theatre on Saturday 22 February, expect attitude, fluidity and finesse on the runway in an evening of extreme excess, celebrating self-expression and identity as vogue houses and individual walkers take centre stage and fiercely battle it out for each category title. Check out the full line up below.
Sissy Ball / Saturday 22 February / – 118-132 Enmore Rd, Newtown NSW 2042
Kaftans are not only a glamourous statement that transcends fashion, but they are the perfect attire for sunny days by the pool. So why not make a statement at ivy’s Pool Club this Mardi Gras at their carefree Kaftan Party. The open-air rooftop bar will transform into a tropical oasis on Wednesday 19 February for a retro poolside soiree. Pluck up a cocktail in hand and salute to the setting summer sun. Prizes for the best kaftan, best cabana lounging ensemble and most outrageous summer accessory are up for grabs!
Kaftan Party / Wednesday 19 February / 330 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
It’s Mardi Gras, doll. It is the perfect time to get thinking about all things queer. And where better to conjure up some esoteric thoughts about sex and gender than at Queer Thinking? The event will commandeer the Seymour Centre in Chippendale for a weekend of workshops, panels and in-conversations from Saturday 22 February to Sunday 23 February. Across two days, leading thinkers, writers, organisers and academics will traverse topics from law reform to prison abolition, mutual aid projects to data marginalisation, religious freedoms to trans liberation. Perfect for those needing some literary inspiration.
Queer Thinking / Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 February / City Rd & Cleveland St, Chippendale NSW 2008
Minus18 Queer Formal
The Minus18 Queer Formal is an informally formal evening for those young Sydneysiders needing to let their hair down. Wear what you want, bring the date you want, and celebrate with other eccentric folks. The event is exclusive to those aged between 13 and 19 but inclusive to all walks of life. Youth workers and security are on-site to make sure the event goes wonderfully. Do you know someone who finds it hard to truly be themselves? This may be the greatest gift you could offer them!
Minus18 Queer Formal / Friday 21 February / UNSW Roundhouse – Anzac Parade, Kensington, NSW, 2052
Queer Screens 27th Mardi Gras Film Festival
The Mardi Gras Film Festival (MGFF) may be exclusive to all things LGBTQI+, but it’s definitely not limited by genre. Whether you love romance, enjoy comedies, dig dramas or are intrigued by documentaries, you’ll find something to pique your interest at the MGFF.
This year marks the 27th year and the highlights are, as always, amazing. Directed by Craig Macneill, the most notable is Lizzie, a psychological thriller based on the infamous 1892 murders of the Borden family starring Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart. The Shiny Shrimps, directed by Cédric Le Gallo and Maxime Govare, is a feelgood comedy based on the true story of a flamboyant amateur water-polo team striving to qualify for the Gay Games in Croatia. And the top Australian film to watch out for is Unsound. It explores the connection between Noah, a disillusioned musician, and Finn, a deaf transman.
The teaser films listed above are on sale now, but we think it’s better to watch on the big screen!
MGFF 2020 / Thursday 13 – Thursday 27 February / Various Venues