With the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival season fast approaching, expectations are high with some pretty big WorldPride size shoes to fill.
Star Observer spoke with the Chair of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) Board, Giovanni Campolo-Arcidiaco, about the upcoming festival season, and how Mardi Gras is looking forward while giving a “wink” to our past.
Talking about planning the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras post-Sydney WorldPride, Campolo-Arcidiaco said, “Our approach is very much, ‘WorldPride has been amazing. We are very proud that we delivered what we promised to the global community, but Mardi Gras has 45 years of history of its own, and that’s the progression that we are focusing on.’ For that reason, that’s why we still have our programme with the classic events, but also we are adding some new things.”
He continued, “We are progressing, but we’re not progressing because we try to match the hype of WorldPride. We are progressing because that’s what Mardi Gras does. We continue to grow in a sensible, sustainable way, but we want to make our festival as inclusive and as diverse as we can.”
Something For Everyone
According to Campolo-Arcidiaco, this upcoming festival season will have something for everyone.
“We have our fantastic festival as usual, but we are embracing some of the legacy from WorldPride and even some newer events that will make the 2024 season very exciting and very interesting for our communities.”
Two events brought over from Sydney WorldPride 2023 include the popular Bondi Beach Party, which attracted 15,000 people last year, and Ultra Violet.
Located at the National Art School, Ultra Violet is a day-to-night dance party designed by and for LGBTQIA+ women.
There will also be new events, such as Hot Trans Summer, a trans and gender-diverse boat party.
Despite carrying over Sydney WorldPride events, Campolo-Arcidiaco said that the 2024 Mardi Gras budget is “essentially similar” to past years.
“Mardi Gras budget was separate from the one from WorldPride. So the budget that Mardi Gras has this year is essentially similar to what we had last year,” he said.
While the budget has not budged, the price of festival tickets has gone up.
Bondi Beach Party Returns
For 2024, tickets to the Bondi Beach Party cost $239 plus booking fees, as do tickets to the Official Mardi Gras Parade after-party. Last year the Bondi Beach Party was $179 and the Mardi Gras Parade after-party was $155.
When asked to address ticket prices and those who believe admission to Mardi Gras events has gotten way too expensive, Campolo-Arcidiaco said, “I would suggest to people to look at the price of other events and compare the quality of production.
“You can go to a party that goes for a few hours, and yes, there may be lights, there may be entertainment, but the level of production and attention that goes into what Mardi Gras does is much, much higher.
“And an event like Bondi Beach [Party] you would understand that from a practical point of view, even just logistically, to keep the safety and security of our customers, which is paramount in such a large venue, you just have to cover this cost.”
Discussing the controversial Sydney Gay and Lesbian Police Accords, specifically the decency inspections, Campolo-Arcidiaco revealed an update.
In 2018, SGLMG and the NSW Police signed an Accord that allows police to conduct public decency inspections of all participants prior to the start of the Mardi Gras Parade.
He said that indecent “can be interpreted in any way. What is indecent to you, may not be to somebody else.”
Campolo-Arcidiaco continued, “The police agreed, working with us, to change that to public nudity check, which is something that applies to anyone in Australia, in public places. This is very easy to define. You’re naked or you’re not.”
With Sydney WorldPride in the rearview mirror, the theme for this year’s Mardi Gras is “Our Future”.
“We felt that it was a good time to stop and reflect on what we can do going forward,” Campolo-Arcidiaco explained.
“We have some very important years behind us and now it’s time to think ‘okay, what’s next?’ Learn from the past and make sure we can have a very focused approach of what we do.
Our Future is a very open concept and anyone can have their own interpretation of what that will be like.”
The highlight of Mardi Gras for Campolo-Arcidiaco is the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.
“I’ve been to the Parade a number of times, but I love watching the parade and seeing the diversity of representation in our communities.
“If you stand there and look at the whole parade, you realise that we are such an incredibly diverse community. We all have our story, and from that story, we start to see what our future might look like.”
Going from February 16 until March 3, this year’s Mardi Gras season is packed with over 100 community events, dance parties, theatre and music before culminating on March 2 with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.