by SIRI MAY
NMG BOARD MEMBER

Last weekend I picked up A New Day Dawning, an account of Mardi Gras’ early days. There have been some great entries in the parade in recent years and many people have thrown their all into making it fabulous, but this historical document was a sobering reminder the parade is not as it was.

Part of that is to do with New Mardi Gras. It has taken the organisation some time to redevelop the event expertise lost when the immensely capable but ultimately financially precarious SGLMG went bust in 2002.

However, with the hard work of our parade volunteers and recent addition of Head of Events Katrina Márton, I believe we can produce an amazing and diverse parade.

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Finances are an ongoing issue. We spend as much on the parade today as we did in 2000. Almost all of that goes into the production basics like barriers, security and infrastructure. The cost of getting the street ready before anyone marches has rocketed in the last decade.

The creative budget has been cut. New Mardi Gras no longer produces as much parade content as the old SGLMG. We haven’t had a fully functioning community workshop to support other people’s parade entries such as the one Peter Tully operated in the late 1980s.

The satirical floats produced during that time are infamous. Remember the Fred Nile head on a platter and the sparkling pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers? These images have carved a place in the cultural landscape of our city.

It’s clear to New Mardi Gras that we have to work towards putting more money and energy into aspects of the parade like creative and community development; floats; community entries and marching groups, as well as the sparkle: fireworks, lighting, audio.

But to position New Mardi Gras and the community as two separate entities is to miss the point, and more importantly, the potential of what we can be.

Although always contentious and subject to debate, I believe the parade has historically represented a badge of pride for a majority in Sydney’s LGBTIQ communities.

Is that the case today? That’s one of the questions we want to get to the bottom of through the It’s Your Parade initiative launched this week.

We’re excited to hear everything the community has to say about the parade, warts and all. Alongside community critique, we hope to hear ideas that look to the future, incorporating new energy and directions.

We’re asking about six key topics: the parade’s purpose; who should participate; what’s good; what’s bad; what can be improved; and how it should be funded.

Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has been a beacon of political creativity in the past. It can still be this, but only if we want it and collectively find the energy and enthusiasm to make it happen.

The task of designing a future for the Mardi Gras Parade that combines sense of purpose, community engagement and a sustainable business model is yours.

info: For full details on how to make a submission to It’s Your Parade visit mardigras.org.au/yourparade or visit www.itsyourparade.com.au

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