Celebrate 40 Years of Sydney's Mardi Gras Festival

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebrates 40 colourful years in 2018.

This year the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras marks a momentous occasion. It’s 40 years on from the original 1978 street festival turned protest. This year’s program and parade have been carefully curated to reflect and celebrate this. In this special anniversary year, the 2018 Festival focuses on the theme “40 Years of Evolution.” If you haven’t heard the news, Australia recently legalised same-sex marriage, which is sure to make this year’s celebrations even sweeter.

“This is a major milestone in the history of one of Sydney’s most important events, one that represents our city at its best—diverse, open, creative and irreverent," said Clover Moore, Sydney Lord Mayor. “From the first march in 1978 to being one of the world’s great LGBTQI festivals, the history of Mardi Gras is 
the history of the community’s long 
path to equality.”

From 16 February to 4 March, the city comes alive in a rainbow of colours celebrating four decades of love, protest, diversity, acceptance, activism and pride. Here’s nine great things to do at this year’s festival.

25th Mardi Gras Film Festival

From romance to comedies, documentaries to dramas and everything in between, Queer Screen delivers 
a huge 25th Mardi Gras Film Festival from 15 February to 1 March. The 2018 festival will feature a raft of Australian and Sydney premieres from all corners of the globe. Highlights include the hotly anticipated “Beach Rats,” and “Signature Move,” a comedic and heartfelt look at the complexities 
of love in its many forms as a Pakistani, Muslim lawyer begins 
a new romance with a confident 
and sexy Mexican-American.

The family-friendly Fair Day is held at Victoria Park.

Fair Day

The family festival favourite Fair Day comes to Victoria Park on 18 February. Enjoy a picnic with friends and family, and kick up your heels at the dance tent. See an amazing array of performers on the Main Stage, get amongst it in the Sports Village, sample the food stalls and admire the drag queens in all corners of the park. Watch as dogs strut their stuff at the world-famous Doggywood competition.

Discover art after hours at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Queer Art After Hours

Queer Art After Hours is on at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on 28 February to coincide with the exhibition “Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium.” The night will feature a star-studded line-up of queer performances, fabulous DJs, live music, gallery tours and delicious drinks.

Ideas spark debates at Queer Thinking.

Queer Thinking

On 24 and 25 February leading thinkers and thought provocateurs will converge on Carriageworks for two days of illuminating ideas, discussion and debate. With a focus on social justice, “Queer Thinking” looks back over the 40 years of Mardi Gras, from its early revolutionary beginnings through to its evolution to becoming one of the leading LGBTQI celebrations. An original 1978 marcher, Julie McCrossin, will be in discussion about how far we’ve come and what fights are still left to fight.​

The “Museum of Love & Protest” exhibition looks back at 40 years of Mardi Gras.

Museum of Love & Protest

The “Museum of Love & Protest” exhibition at the National Art School takes a look back at four decades of original costumes, photographs, rarely-seen film and video footage, iconic posters, storytelling, music and artefacts. Featuring interactive elements, the Museum invites visitors to contribute their own memories and stories of 
Mardi Gras for others to share. It is on from 16 February to 4 March.

Mardi Gras 
at Seymour Centre 

The Seymour Centre offers a Mardi Gras program of theatre, cabaret, play readings and live music from 15 February to 2 March. Highlights include a new production of the contemporary Australian classic “Strangers in Between” by Tommy Murphy starring Simon Burke, the return to Australia of Sydney drag legend Mitzie Macintosh 
in her first ever one-woman show and “Playlist,” a day of play readings 
by LGBTQI writers.​

Family fun at Luna Park

Luna Park Family Fun Day

On Saturday 24 February Luna Park goes rainbow for this fun and fabulous party for kids and their LGBTQI families and friends. This will be a special fun-filled treat for kids of all ages and an awesome action-packed day for the whole family.

Crowds gather for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade

The centrepiece of the festival is, of course, the parade on 3 March. The 40th anniversary Parade is set to be the biggest and most exciting yet, with a sparkling procession of over 200 groups and jaw-dropping floats showcasing the best the community has to offer. Dykes on Bikes, outrageous drag queens, community heroes and talented queer performers 
will join many more LGBTQI groups and allies to create stunning showpieces.​

Mardi Gras Party

After the parade, the official Mardi Gras Party is the place to be. Dance until dawn across five extravagant dance spaces. This year the fabulous Cher is headlining, plus DJs including DJ Alex Taylor, Annabelle Gasper and Sveta. These are hot tickets so be sure to purchase now via ticketek.com.au

The official Mardi Gras Party is always a hoot.