By anyone’s standards 20 years is a long time to be involved in the Mardi Gras parade. This weekend it will be a milestone shared not only by members of the gay and lesbian community, but also by politician Clover Moore -“ Sydney’s lord mayor, the independent state member for Bligh and one of the city’s staunchest community supporters.
It was 1986 when Moore first became involved as one of the parade judges. We stood on the awning of what became 191 (now Deckbar), back when you were allowed to do that, Moore recalled.
I remember we chose AngGays, the Anglican float, that year as the winner, which was quite terrific.
After a stint as a parade costume judge she took to the streets and marched for the first time in the early 1990s.
To actually be in it is so special, Moore told Sydney Star Observer. The preparation beforehand when we’re waiting around is this wonderful sort of Fellini experience. Everyone’s going around and saying hello and checking everyone’s float out. I always find it quite magical.
The reaction she’s received from the crowd when marching in the parade is very rewarding, she said, which is no surprise considering she’s known as one of the most vocal supporters of gay and lesbian rights in NSW parliament.
But possibly her favourite part of Mardi Gras is seeing people around the area getting ready in the weeks leading up to it, rehearsing in laneways, building floats and making frocks. When Moore’s been out door-knocking, people have welcomed her into their homes to show off their costumes.
Just all that lead-up makes it feel a bit like Christmas, she said. The preparation is sometimes the best bit.
Her highlights from parades over the years include -“ of course -“ the marching Clovers. Oh yes, that was quite amazing, she said.
The plan was kept a secret from her until the day of the parade, when she was invited to the float organiser’s home on Saturday afternoon to discover 20 Clovers standing in the backyard wearing suits, make-up and hair identical to her own.
Her most memorable moment though was the year she spent watching the parade in the official viewing room at the height of the HIV epidemic.
A lot of people who were very, very ill were brought up on stretchers to the viewing room and it was pouring with rain. It was the year of the Fred Nile platter, she said. And I remember being with the guys and the whole parade stopped and bowed to them. That was incredibly moving.
A number of them didn’t live after the next week. They’d clearly stayed alive for that occasion.
When she became lord mayor in 2004 Moore pledged her continuing support to Mardi Gras and promised to keep taking part in the parade.
Asked why she still takes part after all these years she said it’s an important celebration of the community it represents, but it also continues to highlight the struggle for equality.
And I think that as a representative of the area it’s important that I’m there.