Gay Games visitors are being urged to mark their diaries now for a return visit to Sydney for next year’s Mardi Gras festivities.

Visitors to the Sydney 2002 Gay Games VI have had a taste of how we can put on a great show so everyone should start clearing their diaries for next year and getting ready to join in the Mardi Gras festival, New Mardi Gras co-chair Stevie Clayton said.

The most important message international visitors can take home with them is that Mardi Gras is definitely on and it’s time to get ready.

The Mardi Gras parade and party will be held on Saturday 1 March and Fair Day will be held on 16 February 2003. An exciting month-long festival of cultural and community events will also take over Sydney from 7 February to 1 March next year.

And already rumours on party entertainers have begun. The Star has it on good authority that New Mardi Gras is currently talking with Shirley Bassey’s management about a special one-off party appearance. Bassey is scheduled to be in the country at the time and it is believed it was her promoter who initiated the discussions.

When asked about Bassey, New Mardi Gras co-chair Michael Woodhouse said, Well, that would be a coup, but refused either to confirm or deny the rumours.

However, one diva is already confirmed for the festival program. US comedy legend Joan Rivers will perform her one-woman show at the State Theatre. Rivers is currently doing the show to rave reviews at New York’s Madison Square Garden where, as one reviewer reported, her audience is predominantly gay men and middle-aged Jewish couples.

I have an agoraphobic gay friend who likes being gay, who’s proud to be gay, who enjoys being gay. The problem is he’s afraid to come out of the closet, Rivers told the appreciative New York crowd.

Sydney Opera House will also feature local and interstate gay, lesbian and queer artists throughout next year’s festival. Paul Capsis, who wowed the Games opening ceremony audience with his rendition of Suffragette City, returns with Capsis Vs Capsis accompanied on grand piano by jazz prodigy Aron Ottignon and directed by David Bonney.

The Brandenburg Orchestra will perform Strozzi’s Secret Lover, a celebration of the secret lesbian life of 17th century Venetian singer-composer Barbara Strozzi. A courageous and talented woman, Strozzi refused to be held back by conventions of her times.

Since I am no more held back by feminine weakness than by any allowance made for my sex, I fly on lightest leaves in devotion to make my bow, she wrote in a preface to one of her collections of cantatas.

Apart from these and other cultural events, the Mardi Gras program will host a vibrant set of community events.

Current local heroes from Team Sydney will build on the momentum of the Gay Games with a full Mardi Gras sports competition. The Southern Cross Outdoors Group will return with their popular bush dance. The festival will involve events outside of central Sydney with plans for the Blue Mountains, Northern Beaches and Northern Rivers also now well under way.

We are pleased that so many local artists and cultural organisations have come forward to put on events during an exciting and colourful festival next year, Woodhouse said.

We are still keen to hear from as many people as possible, registrations have yet to close so if people are interested they can contact us on 9206 2073 or at newmardigras @mardigras.org.au, Woodhouse said.

Full program details will be posted as they become available at www.mardigras.org.au.

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