Want to escape the winter blues this year? If so, the Brisbane Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival offers an array of entertainment, arts, dance parties and community get-togethers in a cool, not cold, and colourful setting each June.

Brisbane winters are mercifully mild. While the direct sun, heat and humidity can make Brisbane and its inhabitants seem washed out at the height of summer, the cool but not cold temperatures and angled light of its winter creates a much richer, relaxed and more colourful cityscape.

Which all befits this year’s many colours theme, a reference to the festival’s celebration of the diversity of the LGBT community.

The Brisbane Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival began in 1990, five months prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in November of that year.

Though largely ignored by the mainstream media today, the first festival proved controversial for a state waking from an unprecedented period of conservative National Party rule.

The cultural climate had been homophobic enough to ensure many moved south. But others stayed to fight and to create a local gay culture: the Queen’s Birthday Arts Ball, which kicks off the festival this year on June 8, is a glittering example.

Established in 1960, the Queen’s Ball (as it is more commonly known) is claimed as the longest continuously run gay event in the world. Part dance party, part costume ball, part community awards ceremony, the Queen’s Ball holds a special place in the hearts of many locals and attracts visitors from interstate and overseas.

Though the event is now licensed to commercial dance party operators, co-founder Dame Sybil Von Thorndyke continues to present the award ceremony and remains a much respected figure in the community.

After recovering from the Ball, visitors can expect a busy calendar of events, including art exhibitions, community forums, gay-themed theatrical productions, a queer pub crawl (by bus!), Dog Day Afternoon -“ billed as a queer family picnic -“ and the ever-popular Pride dance party.

The undisputed centrepiece of the festival is the rally, march and fair day on 14 June. It makes no claim to compete with the glitz of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, but this cavalcade of queers has its own charms.

Certainly, the mainstream media doesn’t announce it, and few people line the busy city streets specifically to see it, but the variety of reactions on the faces of surprised Saturday shoppers is priceless -¦ as are the many hoots, hollers and honks of appreciation along the route.

The march ends at Musgrave Park, where an afternoon of fair day fun attracts a larger number and wider variety of queer Queenslanders than any other event of the year. Suitably, variety and diversity also guide the fair day entertainment, which includes local LGBT performers working in styles across the popular musical spectrum -“ from blues and folk to techno and alt rock. It’s a great reminder that there’s more to gay than disco.

Still, many say they get the most fun of the day from the annual pet parade, where poodles in pink tutus vie for prizes and applause against dobermans in black leather and the odd chiffon shih-tsu. A program for the full festival of events will be available from 8 June.

Story courtesy of the Gay Australia Guide. This page is edited by Dominic O’Grady, publisher of the Gay Australia Guide and other titles in the Gay Travel Guides Group. Visit www.gaytravelguides.info.

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