SYDNEY Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ 2016 season will once again feature an array of events, live performances, exhibitions, parties and activities from February 19 until March 6.

Launched at a reception in Paddington Town Hall in Sydney, with special guest Courtney Act, the 2016 theme is also set to be “Momentum” — a nod to Mardi Gras’ history in the fight for social justice and self expression and how it has evolved into a celebration that still acknowledges the remaining challenges ahead.

[showads ad=MREC]Festival highlights include the much-loved and family-friendly Fair Day, the world-famous Parade and Party, and The Laneway closing party.

Other highlights include Queer Thinking and Gender Trailblazers. Queer Thinking provides audiences some inspiring, entertaining and provocative talks on some of the important LGBTI community issues for 2016, both in Australia and abroad. For the first time, the event will take place over various venues in Sydney.

Meanwhile, Gender Trailblazers will return to celebrate courageous individuals who take trans rights from strength to strength. Gender counsellor and leading psychologist Dr Elizabeth Riley will host a night of trans* community conversation with speakers across the spectrum of ages and experiences.

Another highlight is The Harbour, a brand new series of events on the Fleet Steps, Mrs Macquarie’s Point. Taking place over the weekend the now-cancelled Harbour Party would’ve taken place, The Harbour is a series of outdoor film screenings, talks, concerts and musical spectaculars.

Headlining the series is the 25th anniversary screening of In Bed with Madonna, while Tina Arena will perform an intimate concert with all the classics like I Need Your Body, Chains, and I Want To Love You.

Mardi Gras co-chair Fran Bowron said: “There are people all over the world who are unable to express their true selves, and this is our collective opportunity to show the world the most dazzling celebration of pride and diversity as we say ‘we stand with you’.”

Mardi Gras chief executive Michele Bauer agreed.

“This year absolutely represents every colour of the rainbow, to match the incredible diversity of our community,” she said.

“The festival really is the most amazing two week long celebration, an opportunity for everyone to get involved and have their voices heard. From visual arts, theatre, film, the Parade, outdoor family activities; whether you’re eight or 89, there is something for you.”

Tickets for the festival go on sale from Wednesday, December 2.

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Flick through the official Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2016 festival guide:

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OTHER FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

THEATRE

Australian drag stars Courtney Act and Trevor Ashley will team up for their Gentlemen Prefer Blokes, Seven-Year-Itch reunion tour, and take on some of history’s greatest duos as a part of the Rainbow Room in the Sydney Opera House. For three nights only from March 3–5, the Opera House will transform into a place of comedy, chaos and cabaret as a line-up of stars take to the stage to paint the sails rainbow.

Shift from 1958 to the present and back again with The Pride, showing at the Eternity Playhouse from February 5 to March 6. Meanwhile, 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche is the award-winning theatrical show about a women’s society forced to confront the future during their Annual Quiche Breakfast. After taking America by storm, this performance will be at Belvoir Street Theatre between February 16–20. 

PARTIES

A festival-within-a-festival, the Harbour City Bears’ Bear Essentials festival will return across multiple venues. Pop-up bar Bear Bar will also return to the Burdekin Hotel for nine days between February 26 – March 3.

Visitors can also get outside and make the streets of Sydney a dance floor with Silent Disco Tours, a series of one hour disco adventures at Sydney hot spots from February 21 to March 4.

MUSIC

As well as her performance at The Harbour, Tina Arena will also perform for one night only at the State Theatre on March 4.

Mad Max: Fury Road star iOTA will put on a live show March 4, combining music, theatre and outrageous outfits to showcase his old favourites as well as hits from his brand new album Wolf Number Nine

Meanwhile, 2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst is teaming up with Sydney Symphony Orchestra to bring her new show From Vienna with Love to Mardi Gras for one night only at the Sydney Opera House

VISUAL ARTS

William Yang: Stories of Love and Death features several strands of Yang’s photography for which he is now well known, including his portraiture of celebrities and historic Mardi Gras documentary work. February 17– March 5.

Raw, sassy and proud, Fierce Femme brings together professional and amateur works in an exploration and celebration of the femme identity, on March3. Telling the stories of femmes within the LGBTI community, the exhibition analyses what “fierce femme” looks like through the eye of a lens.

Meanwhile, The Bearded Men Project — a series of oil portraits showcasing contemporary male presence and beauty — will be on at Blank Space Gallery from February 20 to March 4. The exhibition aims to highlight there’s more to gay men than “abs, bums, sneers and pouts”.

SPORTS & OUTDOORS

Now considered a “must do” event each Mardi Gras, the Little Black Dress Run returns to Darling Harbour on February 28. Rock your frock for the 3km run/walk around Darling Harbour in the name of charity.

Break out the hairspray and blue eye shadow for 80s themed The Mardi Gras Disco Climb. This is Sydney’s highest disco dance party, with retro track list, climb leader guides, and the most fabulous ascent over Sydney Harbour Bridge, from February 25 – March 9.

FILM

The popular Mardi Gras Film Festival presented by Queer Screen is on again in 2016 at Event Cinemas George Street, from February 18 to March 3. The festival will open with Summertime, a lesbian love story, and also features the anticipated documentary Remembering The Man, the real-life story behind Timothy Conigrave’s Holding The Man.

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Flick through the official Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2016 festival guide:

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RELATED: Photos from the 2016 launch event

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