A PROGRAM featuring staple festival events alongside a range of cultural and community events for the 2015 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) Festival was officially launched last night.

The festival — which runs from Friday, February 20 to Sunday, March, 8 — will also focus on the theme of Passion, which was first unveiled in October and encourages festival-goers find their passion and to display their “desire for anything”.

As per previous years, Mardi Gras 2015 will have free and ticketed events, including parties, comedy and theatre performances, film screenings, panel discussions, and inclusive community events.

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Highlights of the 2015 season include Queer Thinking, a thought-provoking day of ideas, literature, academia and culture, that explores what it is to be LGBTI in 2015.

Taking place at the Seymour Centre in Chippendale on Saturday, February 21, Queer Thinking will be followed by Gender Trailblazers, which explores and celebrates the lives of trans* trailblazers. US actress, musician, author and LGBTI activist Calpernia Addams will headline the event.

On Sunday, February 22, the popular and family-friendly community event Fair Day will once again take over Victoria Park in Chippendale.

Every year, more than 80,000 people and their pet dogs gather at the park for day of food, theme park rides, market stalls, and live performances on the main stage. Afterwards, the place to be is on King St, Newtown for the free After the Fair parties at the Newtown Hotel and Bank Hotel.

Women Say Something will also return for the 2015 season, combining the grandeur of the big top with the fun of a carnival and the quirks of a sideshow for Cirque du Femme on Friday, February 27. Taking place at Fairground Follies, St Peters, the event will feature a panel discussion of leading women such as Magda Szubanski, Kerryn Phelps and Dorothy McRae-McMahon.

Women Say Something 2014 (Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna)

Women Say Something 2014 (Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna)

Meanwhile, Darling Harbour will be the place to be for friends and families during the Mardi Gras season, with the Wow Me! It’s Mardi Gras program featuring pop-up drag shows and hands-on workshops for the kids, as well as the famous Little Black Dress Run for charity on Sunday, March 1.

Little Black Dress Run 2014 (Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna)

Little Black Dress Run 2014 (Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna)

The Mardi Gras Film Festival will also return as a staple cultural event, along with Day For Night’s hybrid exhibition and dance party, the 2015 Sports Festival by Team Sydney, and the Mardi Gras Disco Climb at Sydney Harbour Bridge.

New events include a youth-oriented Young Sydney Connect, visual arts exhibitions, theatre performances and cabaret/comedy shows headlined by Sandra Bernhard and RuPaul’s Drag Race season six winner Bianca Del Rio.

Mardi Gras’ staple parties will all make a comeback, from the unique Harbour Party on Saturday, February 28, alongside the Pool Party at the Ivy Pool Club on Monday, March 2, the Sunset Cruise of Sydney Harbour on Tuesday, March 3, and rounding out the festival is the popular Laneway party along the Hill St laneway in Surry Hills, with The Beresford and Flinders Hotel at either end, on Sunday, March 8.

Laneway 2014

Laneway 2014

The world-famous Mardi Gras Party is also back, taking place after on Saturday, March 7 immediately after the festival’s pinnacle event of the Mardi Gras Parade.

In 2015, the Parade will feature a Parade Sideshow, a premium spectator spot that offers bars, food stalls, live screens, celebrity hosts,bathrooms, and seating. There’s also The Diamond Club viewing area, reserved for SGLMG members.

SGLMG chief executive Michael Rolik said the 2015 festival was “definitely one of the most richly diverse” programs yet.

“There really is something for absolutely everyone to get involved in, no matter their backgrounds,” he said.

SGLMG co-chair Paul Savage re-iterated his and his organisation’s passion for the 2015 theme.

“Mardi Gras 2015 is all about passion. It’s what drives us, connects us, inspires us and makes us an unstoppable force for change,”  said.

“Without passion we only have apathy. Passion is what has pulled us through the dark periods, in the face of discrimination, inequality, brutality, and conflict. Passion is what has united us to come together. Passion is what Mardi Gras is all about.”

Co-chair Fran Bowron echoed Savage’s sentiments.

“In 2015 we want to hear about what you are passionate about, what is important to you, what inspires you. We invite you to give voice to your passions,” she said.

‘Find your people, your music, and your style. Because to find your passion is to discover who you are, and there’s nothing worth celebrating more than that.”

For full details of the 2015 festival program and to buy tickets, visit www.mardigras.org.au

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