MIDSUMMA festival director Tennille Moisel believes the festival has helped Melbourne’s LGBTI community create its own history.

“Unlike other minority groups, we don’t have documented histories to remind us of where we’ve come from, no formal celebrations to bring us together to commune or reflect,” she told the Star Observer.

“Every time we choose to come together at something like Carnival or the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, or tune into JOY 94.9 – we are creating our own history.”

Since Midsumma Festival began in 1988 it has provided Melbourne’s LGBTI community with a gay and lesbian cultural festival that embraces and celebrates all sexual and gender diverse identities.

Kicking off the festival on Sunday, January 17 is Carnival day, where thousands are expected to descend on Alexandra Gardens for a day of live entertainment, music, food, and countless community organisation stalls and marquees.

Straight after Carnival is the T-Dance outdoor party, also at Alexandra Gardens, which will be free entry once again.

Midsumma will then run until February 7, with a host of events, shows, and performances in its line-up.

“This year’s program is our strongest arts program ever,” Moisel said.

“Our visual arts program has almost doubled, our performing arts includes fantastic venues and performers… also – amazing partnerships – new agreements with venues and organisations like the Victorian Water Polo League.”

Despite the diverse offerings at this year’s Midsumma Festival, Moisel handpicked her own personal festival highlights for the Star Observer:

Carlotta: Queen of the Cross (January 20 – 23)

AUSTRALIAN showgirl icon Carlotta was recently named one of Midsumma’s champions this year, and will take festival audiences through her incredible life on stage.

“We are thrilled to have Carlotta as one of our 2016 Festival Champions and incredibly proud to be producing this show,” Moisel said.

“Carlotta tells her amazing story accompanied by Midsumma favourite Michael Griffiths on piano.

“Super excited that this will also be one of the first Midsumma shows that is already booked to go on tour.”

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Gone (January 21 and February 3 – 6)

Gone is a play exploring the impact of body image, ageing, and social media on gay men, in a community largely dominated by hook-up apps, muscle worship, and dick size.

“In 2014 Gasworks and Midsumma kicked off a partnership to encourage and identify new queer writing for theatre,” Moisel said.

“Gone is the inaugural winner from the 2015 rehearsed readings… it is also heading off on tour at the end of Midsumma 2016.”

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Lesbian Comedy Gala (January 30)

Back for its third year, the Lesbian Comedy Gala brings together some of Australia’s funniest comics including Hannah Gadsby, Cal Wilson, and Sal Upton.

“This might be a charity night for the Matrix Guild but it also is the best night of the year for a lady who likes ladies,” Moisel said.

“More than 595 lesbians and four of their closest male friends descend on the Preston Ton Hall for over five hours of hilarity… a huge night.”

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ALGA History Walk (January 24)

The Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives will be offering a twilight tour of Melbourne’s very camp history at this year’s Midsumma Festival.

“To me ALGA is the most important organisation in our community,” Moisel said.

“Uncovering our amazing pasts and preserving our histories is an absolute labour of love for everyone at ALGA but they do love it.

“The twilight tour of South Yarra will be hilarious, shocking, educational, and the most fun you’ve ever had in your sensible walking shoes.”

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Testing Grounds (February 5)

Midsumma’s Testing Grounds will bring together a mix of projection art, live music, drag shows, performance art, and dance battles behind the spire of the Melbourne Arts Centre.

“Midsumma are back at Testing Grounds for the second time with our late night activation for City of Melbourne,” Moisel said.

“This year we are combining the phenomenal three-dimensional artwork of Alison Bennet, Megan Beckwith, and Mark Payne with an evening of art, alternative music, and general craziness.”

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As Midsumma continues to grow and draw greater and more diverse crowds, Moisel believes it will help the push towards full equality.

“When I think about what equality would mean for our communities and I look at all of the ways the broader community is responding to our tone of inclusivity – I get excited about the future – when even more people choose to come along and celebrate identity as it pertains to the spectrums of gender and identity,” she said.

For full festival details, visit the Midsumma website or flick through the festival program here

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of Midsumma.

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