Mardi Gras Is Charging For Next Year’s Parade, And People Aren’t Happy About It
"This is further corporatisation of Pride, and will push marginalised members of the LGTBQ community further away from the protests and 'celebration' that Pride used to be."
Mardi Gras’ plans for a COVID-safe parade include charging attendees $20, and the queer community is not happy.
On Wednesday Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, a staple event in the queer community’s calendar, revealed their plans for a COVID-safe event in March next year. The usual array of large floats making their way down Oxford Street will be replaced by “outlandish pageantry of costumes, puppetry and props” at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Rather than a singular event taking place, a new vision for Mardi Gras includes “year-round initiatives to provide a platform for LGBTQI+ people, community groups and partners to celebrate, share experiences and provide support, no matter where they are”. Details on these initiatives are yet to come, however, these changes come after “comprehensive community consultation process to better understand how the LGBTQI+ community would like to see Mardi Gras represent them in the future”.
In a statement to Junkee, Mardi Gras has said “Mardi Gras is a non-for-profit organisation. The small ticket price (Adults $20, Group bookings of four $50, Children under 15 or concession $15) helps us cover the cost of operating this event under a COVID Safe Model. Mardi Gras members also receive 2 complimentary tickets to the Parade event. Our partner SBS will also broadcast the entire event live so people around Australia can enjoy the Parade at home with friends.”
Like I get that there are MASSIVE challenges working out how to do public events in a covid context but this ain’t it, pals.
— Maeve Marsden (@maevemarsden) November 5, 2020
It is unclear what the consultation process involved as there is a large amount of backlash directed at the decision to charge for entry. Mardi Gras’ decision stands in the face of the fact that members of the queer community are at higher risk of poverty, homelessness and financial hardship throughout their lives.
If Mardi Gras insists on having multinational corporations march, the *least* these companies could do is cover “cost” of “ticket sales” so that LGBTIQ+ people and their families aren’t forking out $20 for a ticket to their own parade https://t.co/X5GwMAqpvb
— Sally Rugg (@sallyrugg) November 5, 2020
Mardi Gras in Sydney is a form of protest, celebration and a march for LGBT+ rights and charging people to see the parade is promoting exclusivity and missing everything the event is about. Especially when queer people are more likely to face financial struggles!
— Rach ♡‘s ot9✨ (@rachelsobsessed) November 5, 2020
People are also concerned that this move will cement Mardi Gras’ — which started off in 1978 as a protest — loss of integrity. The original march was interrupted by the police who used violence to break it up. The 53 people who were arrested that night had their personal details published in the Sydney Morning Herald, subsequently losing jobs and housing. After that, Mardi Gras became a place where gay civil rights were fought for, and where awareness of AIDS and HIV was raised.
Over the past few years, Mardi Gras has come under fire for increased corporatisation of the event. Floats from corporations such as ANZ, Vodafone, L’oreal and Qantas have been commonplace. The latter of these, Qantas, has especially been criticised as a sponsor of Mardi Gras due to their role in assisting the Morrison government in deporting asylum seekers back to dangerous situations.
The presence of the police has also been a big point of contention, as it makes the event an unsafe space for a community that has historically been targeted by law enforcement. At this year’s event, protestors were arrested for standing up against the Liberal Party’s float.
If I were thinking of running a major event that claims to speak for a marginalised community I would simply hold it inside a walled stadium and probably make sure the cops are right at the front or something.
— Sydney’s #3 liz (@lizduckchong) November 5, 2020
This is further corporatisation of Pride, and will push marginalised members of the LGTBQ community further away from the protests and ‘celebration’ that Pride used to be and into commoditisation of queer peoples and identites.
This is a bad thing.
— Chloe of Milkgaard (@woodman_chloe) November 5, 2020
the mardi gras announcement is incredible. if yoj werent sure about the commodification of an event that originated as a protest for LGBTQ+ rights and against police brutality, this is it revealing itself as clear as day!
— ruby 'smoko out the boba' innes (@rubyinnes) November 5, 2020
Mardi Gras also confirmed to Junkee that the ticketing model for 2021 is a “once off”, and is “a direct result of the extra operational measures required to stage it safely during a global pandemic. There are no plans to continue with a ticketed model outside of the 2021 Parade.”
2021 Mardi Gras parade moving to the SCG! Theme is "First time any of us are at the SCG"
— Nath Valvo (@nathvalvo) November 5, 2020
Mardi Gras at a cricket ground feels homophobic https://t.co/qNCSGswW5F
— GRACE (@GraceGarde) November 5, 2020