The team at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) have begun a consultation process with members of the LGBTIQ+ community on the prospect of changing the festival’s name.
In a note sent out to members overnight, the team highlighted a number of concerns they had received over the years around the festival’s name, which currently only specifies ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ without mention of diverse gender identities or other sexualities.
Chief Executive of SGLMG, Terese Casu, said that many Mardi Gras members, community groups, event organisers, and patrons had questioned her on how to make the festival more inclusive and how the name could more accurately reflect the community.
“We feel it’s an important step to take in talking to the community to see what can be done to be more inclusive and reflect all the vibrant colours of everyone under and over the rainbow,” she said.
Co-Chair of Mardi Gras, Giovanni Campolo-Arcidiaco, said the Board felt it was the right time to engage the community on a potential name change.
“We do not take the matter lightly and understand that a change to our organisation’s name can only happen by a vote of our members at a General Meeting,” he said.
“Our members will have the ultimate say, but we want to live up to our commitment for inclusion.
“That’s what the proposed name change is for: supporting members of our community who feel excluded.”
This is far from the first time SGLMG has had to deal with community contention around the festival’s name.
In 2011, SGLMG faced community backlash after deciding to drop ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ from the festival’s title without community consultation.
During an information and feedback session at the time, there was talk of organising an Extraordinary General Meeting to put the name change to a vote, yet this was shot down as a counterproductive move right before the 2012 Mardi Gras festival.
SGLMG acknowledged the lack of consultation as a misstep, before announcing plans to set up a Members and Community Advisory Group, with the first order of business “to examine the festival and parade name change”.
The upcoming community consultation event will be held at Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s Eternity Playhouse on Sunday 7 April at 4pm.
Mardi Gras members will also be invited to engage in the discussion over the next few weeks.