Cairns Tropical Pride Festival 2014

Cairns Tropical Pride Festival 2014

CREATED ON // Friday, 15 August 2014 Author // Andrew Shaw

With Cairns Tropical Pride taking over our northern neighbour this month, Andrew Shaw spoke to festival director Zelda Da about what we can expect. 

Zelda Da, director of the Cairns Tropical Pride festival, moved up from Melbourne in 2011 and has been part of the festival for the last two years. A musician, emcee and writer herself, Da is part of the Cairns performance community.

She says the LGBT community in Cairns is large relative to the population. “It’s not like Melbourne, where you can pick your niche and stay in it if you want to,” she says. “You mix with a broader range of people.”

Although Cairns doesn’t have a dedicated gay venue at the moment, Da says one local venue gets its biggest turnout when it holds its queer monthly night. “That’s partly why we hold the festival, so people can provide queer friendly spaces where others can express themselves. Because homophobia is real,” Da says.

New events to the festival this year, Da says, are designed to reach out to people who might feel marginalised within the queer community. “We’ve got a seniors lunch at Turtle Cove Resort for people over 65,” she says. “So there’s a free luncheon and people can get free transport to Turtle Cove.” Later that afternoon, the more energetic of all ages can join the Pride Ride down Cairns Esplanade: scooters, skateboards, roller skates, wheelchairs and bicycles all welcome.


Opening night Pool Party.

Another innovation is a women’s night, Proud Women’s Dance night, an evening of wine, women and song at Green Ant Cantina. Da says the night has been planned so women of all ages, not just Gen Y, will enjoy themselves. “Pride hasn’t run one before and I think that’s because most of the Pride committee were men and it hadn’t occurred to them; or perhaps they don’t feel eligible to run a women’s night.” Da says women who haven’t experienced a women-only event are in for a treat: “It’s about the different sense of self that you can feel and the different quality of fun that you can have in a single-sex environment.”

This year’s film night at the Centre of Contemporary Arts sees the Queensland premiere of Submerge, about a young Melbourne woman training to be an Olympic swimmer who is introduced to a subculture of fetish and anonymous sex.

Those looking for a tropical dance party experience should head for the Pool Party on the festival’s opening night, Saturday, August 23, at Lilo, Rydges Plaza; then on Sunday there’s a beach party at Turtle Cove.

Gen Y take over the six metre Pride float this year in the annual Cairns Festival Parade. The Pride float has done well in previous year’s competitions and Da hopes this year will be no exception. Nikira Lowe, 18, and Jesse Cook, 21, will drive the float, designed along Pride’s theme, ‘Come Out and Celebrate in Spring!’


The Hot and Wet Swing Set features in Tropical Pride 2014.

Spring? Are there seasons in tropical Cairns? “We do still have seasons up here,” Da laughs. “The plants and trees start flowering, the weather warms up, the ocean temperature warms up.”

Fair Day caps everything off on Sunday August 31 at the Tanks Centre. “It’s a really gorgeous venue with a beautiful landscape and tropical gardens. It’s walled, so there’s a sense you are contained in this almost medieval environment, it’s quite other-worldly. There are our stallholders, lots of arts and crafts and information stalls about gay and lesbian attractions in the area.”

Entertainment on Fair Day includes a demonstration by roller derby teams, all woman band Secret Tuesdays, drag races – a first for Cairns – then Da’s own cross-dressing band, The Hot and Wet Swing Set, “saucy blues and jazz tunes direct from the 1920s dance halls”. Yak Yak Yak Youth Arts group follows with theatre for the kids, then the highlight of any Fair Day: the Dog Show.

“You need a holiday and you need a Pride holiday,” says Da, putting out a call for people to make the trip to Cairns. “You can enjoy the beach and you can enjoy the rainforest, but you can also enjoy this fabulous LGBT event at the same time. You’re coming out and celebrating with us and saying, yes, there are plenty of queers in Cairns and we love that and we’re here with you and celebrating with you.

“It’s a beautiful place to live, but it’s still more difficult to be gay in Cairns than it is in Sydney or Melbourne.

“So by coming up and celebrating with us and adding your numbers, putting your body on the dancefloor, you’re helping us say it’s ok to be gay. And actually, it’s pretty fabulous.”

Cairns Tropical Pride Festival, August 23-31, 2014. or

IMAGE TOP: Fair Day.


Andrew Shaw

Andrew Shaw

Andrew Shaw is editor of Queensland Pride.

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