Pride and passion on display: 19 floats to watch at the Mardi Gras Parade
With 186 floats and over 12,000 marchers, 2017 is the biggest, brightest and boldest processions yet – and SX got a sneak peek at some of this year's colourful entries.
In a special preview, we present a selection of community floats to look out for at this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. By Reg Domingo.
The Force of Love
Above: The Force of Love. Photo: Reg Domingo
This float has been put together in response to a homophobic cartoon published in The Australian last year. Activist and float organiser Dejay Toborek said: “Last September, a cartoonist characterised marriage equality supporters as Nazi Stormtroopers. Our community’s advocacy for equality, our pride flag and our love was turned into hate dressed up as 'satire'. To counter this hate, in our own fun and fiercely fabulous way, we will march down Oxford St, continuing to be a 'Force of Love', pride, acceptance and equality.” The float will feature 50 participants in an explosion of rainbows. “We should always resist homophobia and bigotry, whenever and wherever it shows itself. As a community, we are certainly a force to be reckoned with. Together we are a force of love, of pride and equality for marginalised people all around the world. Show your colours and your pride and give us a wave and cheer when you see our marchers,” said Toborek.
Be Your Own Hero
Dr Mark’s Marching Academy
Above: Members of Dr Mark's Marching Academy. Photo: Supplied
Dr Mark’s Marching Academy has participated in the Mardi Gras Parade for nearly two decades. This year, they are hoping to inspire others to keep up the good fight, no matter how insurmountable the obstacles ahead may seem. “Our morals and beliefs are intrinsic to who we are,” said float organiser Bradford Jeffries. “Sometimes standing up for the things we believe in is hard. Sometimes it is unpopular. Sometimes we are let down by institutional bodies that supposedly support us. We are, however, the greatest agents of change. We don’t need to rely on others; we can all be our own heroes.” To convey this message, they have embraced a superhero theme. “This float is to celebrate those heroes within our community, whose shoulders we stand on, and the rights and privileges we have today because they were brave enough to take a stand when it was neither popular nor easy.”
The Institute of Many
Above: 'Beyond HIV Stigma' is The Institute of Many's message. Photo: Reg Domingo
Australia’s largest grassroots movement for people living with HIV, The Institute of Many (TIM) is marching in the Mardi Gras Parade for the first time, and they are doing it to the beat of the own drum. 55 people living with HIV and their partners, friends, allies, and families from all over Australia will march under the TIM banner, included a contingent of drummers, beating out a powerful rhythm to help convey TIM’s message, ‘Beyond HIV Stigma’. “It’s been five years since the HIV Stigma Audit as released,” said TIM co-founder Nic Holas. “We need to help the community move beyond just identifying HIV stigma. We need to start focusing on building a resilient community of people living with HIV who can show the world what HIV in the 21st century looks like.”
NSW Community Legal Centres for LGBTIQ Equality
Above: Inner City Legal Centre leads a float for community legals centres across NSW
Around 70 lawyers will form a human rainbow in this float celebrating the work of community legal centres (CLC) across NSW. Led by the Inner City Legal Centre, the float will feature 13 CLCs, each representing a different colour of the rainbow. Vicki Harding, Centre Director of Inner City Legal Centre, said: “The float is designed to represent the vision of a united force for the LGBTIQ community. Despite each CLC having different areas of specialty or locality, they are all welcoming and aim to encourage individuals to seek appropriate legal advice in relation to LGBTIQ matters. Our key message is to not be intimidated by the law and to seek support to stand up for your rights. Together we can create equality!”
Freedom! The Float - George Michael Tribute
Above: DIY Rainbow in rehearsal for their George Michael-inspired float. Photo: Reg Domingo
DIY Rainbow’s 2017 float is a homage to George Michael. “Scott Marsh has recreated his famous mural collaboration with Paul Mac of Saint George in St Peters for our float,” said organiser and DIY Rainbow founder James Brechney. “We also have US porn stars Jesse Jackman and Dirk Caber on the float, giving their best George Michael looks.” Brechney said the 100-strong float will be a joyous celebration of the gay icon’s life and music. “Let’s remember a beautiful man who left us too early but made a huge mark.”
The Gender Centre Parents of Transgender and Gender Diverse Kids Support Group
Above: Proud parent and float organiser Lisa and her son Ruben. Photos: Supplied
“We are family. We love them unconditionally.” That’s the theme of this float put together by a group of parents of trans and gender diverse kids. The collective formed out of a support group run by The Gender Centre. Over 90 marchers make up the float, comprising parents, friends, kids, allies and older transgender people. Prominent trans advocates Savannah Jackson and Teddy Cook will be the float’s “transgender defenders”. Said float organiser and proud parent Lisa Cuda: “We want to show the support and unconditional love we have for our children and in doing so encourage other parents, friends, family members and the outside community to understand, embrace and celebrate our beautiful children just as we do and just the way they are.”
My Pride Worldwide
Above: The Dutch-Consulate General float at Mardi Gras 2016. Photo: Supplied
Under the slogan ‘My Pride Worldwide’, a group of 70 enthusiastic Dutch and Australian volunteers, dressed in orange, will join the Dutch diplomatic missions in their march through Sydney, to present the Netherlands as a global frontrunner with regards to LGBTQI rights (the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001).
How Do You Do It?
Above: ACON's float will showcase their new campaign, How Do You Do It? Photo: Reg Domingo
ACON’s latest HIV prevention campaign How Do You Do It? informs their float this year. “We’re raising awareness of the three ways gay men can now choose to practice safe sex: with condoms, by using HIV prevention drug PrEP or, if they’re HIV positive, by having an undetectable viral load (UVL) by being on treatment,” said campaign producer and float choreographer Michael Wacher. ACON has been marching at Mardi Gras for over 30 years and make up one of the biggest floats in the parade. “[We have] a diverse mix of over 200 ACON supporters including 40 dancers leading the way in specially constructed LED harnesses,” Wacher said. He hopes the float will bring home the message to the community that there’s no longer a 'one size fits all' approach to safe sex. “We can now choose from a range of strategies – condoms, PrEP or UVL – to maximise sexual pleasure while protecting ourselves and our partners from HIV.”
Above: The GlamCocks at Seattle Pride. Photos: Supplied
GlamCocks are a group of close friends that live all over the world that come together every year to create a theme camp at US desert music festival, Burning Man. The group are renowned in the Burning Man community but came to the world’s attention thanks to the 2013 film Meet The GlamCocks. Their group ethos of inclusion, equality, diversity and self-expression is the key message of their float, which will be made of 60 marchers. Their costumes will be inspired by their desert adventures; that is, bright, glamorous and over-the-top. Look out for a contingent wearing their signatures GlamCock red Speedos, which have become synonymous with the group from their Burning Man beach party events.
Wett Ones Sydney
Above: Members of Wett Ones Sydney gear up for Mardi Gras. Photo: Reg Domingo
The LGBTQI Masters Swimming Club will walk the parade to celebrate their diverse membership of different sexualities, genders, ages. They hope to demonstrate that although their members come in all shapes and sizes they are united as a team and that everyone is given an equal playing field (or swimming pool). The club will be joined by members of sister groups Aqualicious in Brisbane and Glamourheads in Melbourne.
Trans Sydney Pride
Above: Trans Sydney Pride. Photo: Supplied
2017 marks the first time Trans Sydney Pride (TSP), a Sydney-based social and support group founded by binary transpeople for binary, non-binary and gender queer transpeople, will march in the Mardi Gras Parade. According to TSP’s Peta Friend, the float will explore the idea of a ‘metamorphosis’, themed around the notion of taking flight, “representing the liberation that takes place when a trans, intersex or gender non-conforming person transforms into the best version of themselves”. The float, one of the recipients of the SGLMG Community Parade Grants Program made possible by Google, will feature 27 participants marching in pink, blue and white, colours that Peta says represents the journey a trans person goes through. “We want to say that we are here, we are strong and that trans Is beautiful,” Peta said.
Sydney Women's AFL
Above: The Sydney Women's AFL float are back in this year's Mardi Gras Parade. Photo: Supplied
With women's teams from across all states and territories, Sydney Women’s AFL is made up of a mixture of straight, gay, trans, Muslim, Catholic, Christian participants who all support each other for who they are. The group will take to the streets to show that there is no place for discrimination in sport and there is no place for discrimination in life.
The Goldilockses and the 90 Bears
Harbour City Bears
Above: The Harbour City Bears will celebrate their women supporters in the 2017 parade. Photo: Reg Domingo
In its 21st year of marching in the Mardi Gras Parade, the Harbour City Bears will celebrate diversity and inclusion by highlighting the amazing support they have received from women over the years. According the club secretary and float designers Joshua Borja, the 100-strong float – cheekily titled ‘The Goldilockses and the 90 Bears’ – aims to convey that “the way the bears are creating equality is by celebrating the female friends and financial members that have supported our club. The Bears are always going to be male heavy, however the females play a strong role in our organisation – without Goldilocks, The Three Bears is a very boring story.” It’s the first time women are marching with the Harbour City Bears. “The masks will be sparkling, the bears will be hairy, and the girls will be adding their flair and beauty to the float.”
Positive Life NSW
Above: Positive Life NSW at the Mardi Gras Parade. Photo: Cec Busby
As part of the Positive Life NSW’s message to promote a positive image of people living with HIV and aim to eliminate prejudice, isolation, stigma and discrimination, they will be walking under a theme of “100% Positive”. This message aims to convey’s Positive Life NSW’s position and support for 100% of people with HIV to be on treatment, remain motivated and engaged in personal HIV treatment and health care, and celebrate the wins around reducing HIV transmission.
Different Strokes Dragon Boat Club
Above: Different Strokes Dragon Boat Club in the parade. Photo: Robert Knapman
Different Strokes is a Sydney-based dragon boat club that was formed in 2008, with the aim of providing a social and fitness-focused sporting outlet for the LGBTQ community. With their float design, assisted this year by the SGLMG Community Parade Grants Program made possible by Google, they want to show a future where creating equality is not a question, but a reality.
Selamat Detang - Supporting GLBTIQ Indonesians
Above: Members of Selamat Detang at Fair Day. Photo: Supplied
Selamat Datang was created to show support for GLBTIQ people in Indonesia and their struggle for acceptance in Indonesian society. In many parts of Indonesia, GLBTIQ people still have to hide who they are because of abuse and violence which has increased in the last twelve months to the GLBTIQ community. By participating in the Mardi Gras Parade, the float – carrying the message ‘Riding the Wave to Equality Together – aims to show their support and solidarity with GLBTIQ people in Indonesia. People from different part of Indonesia, of varying cultures and faiths, as well as friends from other nations make up the float, and they’ll all be wearing the same colours: the red and white of the Indonesian flag.
R U OK?
Above: Bianca Dye will march for R U OK? Photo: Supplied
Suicide prevention charity R U OK? will march in the Mardi Gras Parade for the first this year. Featuring one hundred choreographed dancers, staff and ambassadors, including Black Comedy’s Steven Oliver and Bianca Dye from Bianca, Terry & Bob 97.3FM, the float will shimmy down Oxford Street, providing the community with a visual reminder to ask, ‘Are you ok?’, all year round.
Say Yes to Love
City of Sydney
Above: Lord Mayor Clover Moore with supporters at the Mardi Gras Parade. Photo: Supplied
The City of Sydney will show its support for creating equality at the Mardi Gras Parade with a ‘Say Yes To Love’ parade entry. Created by designer Genevieve Blanchett, the entry features a giant inflatable map of Australia, dancing brides and grooms, disco lights and rainbow flags. Up to 100 staff, family and friends will take part in the City’s parade entry, performing a choreographed routine to support the LGBTIQ community and recognise its contribution to the wider Sydney community. The City’s parade participants, decked out in tutus, top hats, sequins and glitter, will call for marriage equality and dance to a remix by leading DJ Jacqui Cunningham. Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who has been involved in Mardi Gras for more than 30 years, said while a lot has changed in that time, the parade’s glamour, wit and outrageous sense of fun is as relevant and fantastic as ever.
Dykes on Bikes
Above: Dykes on Bikes kicking off the Mardi Gras Parade. Photo: Robert Knapman
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Mardi Gras Parade without the Dykes on Bikes, whose roar of their engines has become the official horn that signals the start of the procession. The Dykes on Bikes have been participating in the Mardi Gras Parade since 1998. Look out for them at the start of the parade as they rev up the crowd and set the party mood.
Also look out for these floats produced by Sydney Mardi Gras ...
This float features 8 x 2.4 metre high 3-D equality letters on wheels that will span over 20 meters. A cross between a moving sculptural installation, parade float and giant photographic exhibition, each letter features a different participant from the My People I My Tribe Photography project titled #barenakedtruth. Accompanying the giant letters as they travel up Oxford Street will be 60 participants from the LGBTQI community in Sydney that have participated in the My People My Tribe project.
Created in collaboration with the AGNSW and Mardi Gras, this float features a giant sparkling gold women's shoe inspired by Andy Warhol's beautiful 1950s illustrations of women's shoes. Inside the shoe will ride four Andy Warhols, each an Andy from a different decade – 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
A Fabulous Future
The third float Mardi Gras have created for the parade will feature two hoop aerialists and 40 community dancers in a spectacular float that depicts a ‘Barberella’ styled future where everyone is equal, respects and loves each other and anyone can be married. The two hoops represent rings of love and commitment and the aerialists, the sparkling diamonds in the rings.
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is on Saturday, March 4. For details, visit the Mardi Gras website here
- TOPICS: ACON, City of Sydney, Different Strokes Dragon Boat Club, DIY Rainbow, Dr Mark's Marching Academy, Dykes on Bikes, Gender Centre, GlamCocks, Harbour City Bears, Inner City Legal Centre, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Parade, Positive Life NSW, R U OK?, Selamat Detang, Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney Women's AFL, The Force of Love, The Institute of Many, Trans Sydney Pride, Wett Ones