Less than a year after the closure of Sydney’s Pride Centre, Pride Week has made an astounding comeback with a new festival packed with over 50 events planned to liberate, celebrate and educate the local community.

Born out of a tentative meeting of community organisations at Stonewall, the Pride Festival has grown with unprecedented momentum into a gargantuan celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of the modern gay and lesbian rights movement.

Festival and Stonewall Hotel events organiser Glenn Hansen never anticipated that the suggestion of another queer festival in winter would be taken up with so much gusto but is more than pleased to see Pride finally expanding beyond the hotel’s walls.

It’s important for us to remember the history -” the Stonewall Riots and the start of gay liberation as we know it, he told Sydney Star Observer.

It’s also a time for us to raise a lot of money for charity and give people events in our community that can bring them together to stand tall.

The Pride Centre’s Murray Hood said he was thrilled to see Pride Week getting a good shot in the arm by businesses and people keen to commemorate Stonewall.

Understanding the history of our community and how our brothers and sisters have fought for our rights is paramount to our continued fight for equality, he said.

Personally I think Pride Week is a time of celebration -” of our rights, and how far we’ve come and a way to thank those who have fought for us.

Launching tomorrow with a celebratory cocktail event sponsored by Sydney Star Observer at the Stonewall Hotel, the festival will provide two weeks of events to revel in everything queer.

Arts fans will have a hard time trying to fit everything in with an abundance of drag events, Queer Screen showings and an exhibition of ACON’s thisisoz posters to explore along the length of Oxford St.

For party monsters, it would be recommended to start resting up now, with something planned for nearly every night. Stonewall and Arq will both host massive parties on the first Friday of the festival, setting the mood of revelry that will continue throughout with SPIN OUT at Phoenix and 20:10 Vision featuring Mandy Rollins, Matt Vaughn and Mark Alsop at Manacle on June 20.

The partying will culminate in one massive, one way street party along Oxford St on June 26. For $10 revellers will be able to make their way from Slide to the Colombian, Gilligans, the Polo Lounge, Nevermind, the Oxford and Stonewall.

It’s an event that will not only see local clubs coming together like never before, but will also raise funds for community groups with the entire proceeds from entry wristbands going to charity.

This is a time for us to raise a lot of money for charity while giving people in the community events they can afford, Hansen explained.

A lot of it will also be about educating the young people -” letting the charities come forward and say what they’re about. A lot of young people today don’t actually know what certain charities are about, so it’s good for them to come to the forefront and explain their history.

Hopefully we’ll see a lot more young people coming on board as volunteers and getting involved, because they’re the ones who are going to be running the clubs and things in the future.

Ensuring that the knowledge of Pride’s history is passed on to future generations will be one of the festival’s key objectives, Hansen pointed out.

This was welcomed by the Pride History Group’s president Dianne Minnis.

I think it’s important LGBTI people understand how far we’ve come in this period and what it was like 40 years ago for members of our community, she said. It’s a history we need to preserve. It’s not preserved in straight history, so it’s up to us, so younger members of the community can have access to that and know there was a movement before Mardi Gras.

The Pride History group, which has in previous years hosted book launches to commemorate Pride, this year will announce their own plans to commemorate 40 years of gay and lesbian activism next year. For more details go to page 5.

It’s important to recognise the political roots of our movement, and those roots are in that Stonewall period, Minnis said, adding that the new Pride Week Festival could provide a very different opportunity for celebrations from the annual Mardi Gras festival.

The public aspect of Mardi Gras is of course of major importance, particularly to young gays and lesbians in country towns and outer suburbs who need that beacon of a parade to really say that it’s OK, but Pride Week at this stage seems to be much more for the local community to celebrate.

Murray Hood agreed. It’s about including as much of our local community as possible. There’s a big focus on families and other people who don’t ordinarily do the clubbing or party circuit, he said.
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby added their approval for a grassroots festival.

The resurgence of the Pride Festival is an exciting and positive development for Sydney’s GLTBI community, GLRL co-convenor Benjamin Keats said. He invited people to the Lobby’s equality picnic on 20 June at Glebe Point Park.

Pride will allow for many community organisations to raise public awareness of their campaigns and activities. For the GLRL, with Pride’s link to the Stonewall Riots, it’s an excellent opportunity for us to talk about the rights we have obtained, and those rights we are still fighting for, such as adoption reform, improved surrogacy laws and civil marriage.

Hansen hopes to see the event flourish into an ongoing festival for people to celebrate their community and rights in the middle of the year, rather than having to save all their energy for February.

The parade and all of that needs to stay big, but there is room for a winter festival. Mardi Gras has been very supportive of this and I think we’ll actually complement each other.

One will be a big party celebration to show the world, whereas the other is about the people of Sydney and the community of Sydney.

info: The official Pride Week calendar appears in the centre of this paper.

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