Melbourne Pride: One-Day Pride Street Party On February 13

Melbourne Pride: One-Day Pride Street Party On February 13
Image: Mayor Sophie Wade and Deputy Mayor Edward Crossland Image: Daniel Spellman

The Melbourne Pride Street party is the final Midsumma Festival event for the year that will take place on Smith and Gertrude Streets in Fitzroy on Sunday, February 13. 

The Victorian Government-led initiative will commemorate the 40th anniversary of homosexuality being decriminalised in Victoria with arts and cultural festivities in the City of Yarra. 

Martin Foley, Minister for Equality said, “Melbourne Pride celebrates our LGBTIQ+ communities, with a series of activities across the state including in our regional communities over the entire summer.” 

The CEO of Midsumma, Karen Bryant said, “we are thrilled to see such creativity already underway across the state, ensuring regional voices and stories are shared alongside, what will be, a street party to remember on 13 Feb; making Melbourne Pride a commemoration of the road to pride for our communities, and the journeys still being undertaken.” 

Live Performances, Music, Circus, Keynote Speakers, and Activities

Electric Fields

During the one-day festival, there will be live performances, music, circus, keynote speakers, activities, community stalls and interactive demonstrations. 

Two live music stages will be set up on Gertrude and Smith Streets for performances from musicians and artists.

Australian neo-soul pop duo Electric Fields will headline the free event. 

The line-up will also include Yorta Yorta woman, composer and educator Deborah Cheetham, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Vetta Borne, newcomers KYVA, multi-award-winning cabaret company YUMMY, art experience creators All the Queens Men, multi-disciplinary artist and musician Kira Puru, the drag duo Jawbreakers, and cabaret performer Reuben Kaye.  

Some local businesses in the area will have shopfront activations and host performances in venues.

Star Observer spoke to the City of Yarra’s mayor and deputy mayor, Greens Councillors, Sophie Wade and Edward Crossland.

Sophie who identifies as an LGBTQI ally said she heard the event would take place in Fitzroy sometime last year. 

Long-Awaited Event Finally Here

“I got a letter in the mail, saying there’s going to be a road closure, and usually those things are for construction or for something boring, and this time I was like, ‘I know what this is for; this is so great.’”

She said the event will help out Fitzroy’s hospitality businesses after “coming out of such a difficult period.”

“We were sad to see in December when it got delayed by another couple of months, but things are looking really good this time,” the newly-elected mayor said.

She said recent research shows “10 per cent of Yarra’s population identifies as LGBTIQ+.” 

“We recognised that LGBTIQ+-identifying people still face discrimination, exclusion, violence, suffer disproportionately from poor health, and mental health as well, and feel unsafe in public,” she said.

Edward, Sophie’s fellow councillor and the deputy mayor said he wants to establish the City of Yarra as the “anchor of the north” with more LGBTQI venues opening up in the ward’s suburbs such as Fitzroy and Collingwood.

“For me I find it really exciting, honestly, and it’s something that I’ve been hoping would occur for a really long time,” he says about Melbourne Pride. 

“I think it’s somewhat overdue. And I think it also just reflects that so much of the queer community, particularly in Victoria, has been in Yarra.”

Putting the Second-Largest Australian City on the Queer Map

He said he has had local queer businesses such as Eagle Leather and the Laird speak to him about the City of Yarra holding an annual leather festival. 

“You might be thinking: Berlin, Melbourne, San Francisco,” when he was addressing the topic of putting the second-largest Australian city on the queer world map.

He said he has been working with the state government to preserve queer venues that have been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic like the cruising venue, Club 80. 

“The building’s been retained, great, but without that venue you’ve just got a façade. How do you identify one of those locations say like Club 80 if we were to do it again?” he asked.

“The last thing you want is to have a list of plaques and a map saying, ‘this is where this used to be.’ It’s effectively ‘queer erasure’ in the name of gentrification. You don’t actually need to get rid of it. There’s ways of retaining it, incorporating it. We need to have a more active role in facilitating that.” 

Sophie outlined the strong queer history of the area. “We had Ralph McClean who was Australia’s first openly-gay mayor and openly-gay councillor.” 

“Gertrude Street was the home of Melbourne’s first gay bar, the Key Club in the 1970s,” she said. 

“And then in the 1980s, the first lesbian café named Rosie O’Grady’s Café came along on the corner of Gertrude and George Streets. And we’ve also got St Mark’s Anglican Church which has also been a pillar and champion of the LGBTQIA+ history in Fitzroy.”

In May last year, Sophie and Edward endorsed the “first-ever LGBTIQ+” organisation called the Rainbow Advisory Committee. It provides advice and support to Yarra Council, and gives recommendations to policy changes. Edward is one of two committee delegates.

A Space Where the LGBTQI Community Can Thrive

“Last year we released our LGBTIQ+ strategy which sets out priorities and actions which ensures that Yarra remains a welcome, safe space, and that it’s a space where the LGBTQIA+ community is able to celebrate and thrive,” Sophie said.

She would “love” to see more queer events in the “pipeline.” She said there are a few musical dance groups that would love to star in future events. 

The Queer Sporting Alliance is also “keen” to do more “work” in the City of Yarra. 

“Hopefully we’ll see not just cultural events, but sporting events that feature the LGBTQI community,” she said.

Edward said out of the queer venues that are still in the ward that he likes to visit are Hares & Hyenas, Mollie’s Diner and the Rainbow Club.

In terms of the commemoration of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Victoria, Edward said “forty years” is not “that long.” 

“It’s only a fraction longer than my life – to me – that’s huge.” 

Four out of the nine City of Yarra councillors identify as LGBTQI which is one of the highest representations in Victoria.

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