Get Your Bear Pride On
SYDNEY: Now in its fourth year, Sydney Bear Pride is a fun and inclusive festival focusing on culture, food and a celebration of community. John Carayannis, President of Harbour City Bears, the organisation behind the event, tells Clancy Atkinson what’s in store.
SX: How, why and when did Sydney Bear Pride come about?
JOHN CARAYANNIS: Sydney Bear Pride came about as it was the 15th anniversary of Harbour City Bears’ inception. As it was such a popular festival, we decided to do another one the next year, and this is now our fourth festival.
Is Sydney Bear Pride open to all or do you have to be a member of the Harbour City Bears?
We put events on for the membership and they are open to everyone to come along and enjoy themselves. There are a lot of bear admirers, as well as the general public, who come along to all of our events, and are welcomed by all who attend.
What can we expect during Sydney Bear Pride week?
The festival is a great way to get everyone together, whether they’re local, from interstate, or even from overseas. We begin the festival with a dinner and this year’s event is going to be at Flying Fajitas Sistas in Glebe. It’s going to be a great night.
The Secret Cinema is a great concept, and the excitement is beginning about what the features will be, as well as where it’s going to be held.
We’re also really proud to have Mr Harbour City Bears 2013 winner, Ash Luton, host the forum on Body Image, which will also feature ‘The Healthy Bear’, Dr George Forgan-Smith on the panel.
And of course, who can go past a good-old fashioned dance party, which will surely be the highlight of the festival.
International bear events such as Bear Week in Provincetown in the US and Bear Pride in Sitges in Spain attract many international guests. How does Sydney Bear Pride compare?
Sydney Bear Pride is more of an intimate festival focusing on culture, food, and a celebration of community. A lot of visitors are usually from interstate. But that’s not to say there won’t be any overseas visitors this year.
There is a lot of buzz about RetroFurr, which sounds like fun! What can we expect?
Retrofurr is going to be a whole lot of fun. We’ve got Stephen Allkins opening the party, which is absolutely fantastic! Stephen is a lot of people’s favourite, and he’s going to play a lot of classics. Spanky from Melbourne played at our Underbear party this year during Bear Essentials, and the crowd loved him.
Expect lots of laughs, memories, some disco, some 80s and lots of fun. There will be a show as well – but we’re keeping that under wraps.
The Harbour City Bears are renowned for welcoming people all shapes and sizes, a visit to Furry Fridays at the Oxford or Bears on Sunday at The Bank are proof of that. One of the events during the festival is a forum on body image – how important is acceptance to bear culture?
For me, going to my first bear night back in the days of the Beresford Hotel and walking in, I felt immediately accepted. Guys came up to me and chatted to me, which was quite different to what I experienced at other gay clubs. You’re accepted for more than the way you look or the way you dress. That’s why I continued going along and making new friends, and then started volunteering for Harbour City Bears and then joined the committee.
The bear movement is gaining a lot of momentum worldwide – why do you think that is and what are the fundamentals of the bear community?
I think it’s a fantastic thing, personally. A lot of people are coming along to events, or seeing photos on social media, and in the papers, and seeing how much fun the guys are having, how genuine people are at events, and how comfortable they are surrounded by big burly men in a pub.
And that’s what the community is about. We’re for inclusion and being welcoming at events.
[Pictured] Celebrating Sydney Bear Pride 2013 ... Michael O’Dell, Tim Depew, Colin Kinchela, Ash Luton, Tom Nemecek, Eddie Wee, and Roger. Photo: Morgan Carpenter
Sydney Bear Pride runs from August 28 to September 1.
SYDNEY BEAR PRIDE FESTIVAL 2013: AT A GLANCE
BEAR PRIDE DINNER
Wednesday, August 28
Come and join fellow bears in a celebration of Bear brotherhood with great food, delicious wine and plenty of merriment. 7.30pm, Flying Fajitas Sistas, Glebe. Details: HERE
Thursday, August 29
At a venue in the heart of the city, enjoy classic films from Queer Screen in this fun Sydney Bear Pride movie night. Location and films to be announced. Details: HERE
BEARS AT LUNA PARK
Friday, August 30
Kick off the weekend with some fun on the Wild Mouse, Dodgem City or at Coney Island at Luna Park. 6pm, Luna Park, Milsons Point. Details: HERE
Friday, August 30
The Harbour City Bears weekly Friday night social hosts a special Sydney Bear Pride edition. Meet members of Harbour City Bears. 9pm, Oxford Hotel, Darlinghurst
BULGE BY HONEY
Friday, August 30
Bulge returns bigger, beefier and hairier than before for a special Sydney Bear Pride instalment. With DJs Juan Velasco and Chip. 10pm, Phoenix, Darlinghurst. Details: HERE
COMMUNITY FORUM: BODY IMAGE
Saturday, August 31
Join host Ash Luton (Mr HCB 2013) and guest speakers Barry Taylor of the National LGBTI Health Alliance and Dr George Forgan-Smith aka ‘The Healthy Bear’ for a lively discussion exploring body image. 3pm, ACON, Surry Hills. Details: HERE
Saturday, August 31
Stephen Allkins will be joined by Melbourne’s Spanky and Sydney’s Scottie Lupton at this retro bear party. Expect plenty of disco classic and a load of fun. 9pm, Imperial Hotel, Erksineville. Details: HERE
Sunday, September 1
Cap off festivities at the Harbour City Bears weekly Sunday gathering at The Bank Hotel. With cheap drinks, great food and plenty of revelry, it’s the only way to finish Sydney Bear Pride. 4pm, Bank Hotel, Newtown
Listing correct at the time of publication and subject to change without notice.
For full event details, visit bearpride.com.au