Cover for the oral history project released by Sydney Pride Centre in 1998, commemorating 20 years since the first Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras

As well as Chinese New Year, Tropfest, and countless other celebrations, we’re also in the midst of Mardi Gras in Sydney at the moment. So far, I’ve been on the annual History Walk (which I wrote about last week), and tomorrow I’m heading off to Fair Day. I’ll also probably head up to watch the parade, depending on the weather and there’s a forum or two I’ll probably attend.

A response to my previous post about the History Walk reminded me today of something I did almost ten years ago for what was, at the time, the fairly new Sydney Pride Centre. Co-inciding with the twentieth anniversary of the first Mardi Gras Parade, a couple of friends – Glen and Greig – and I were involved in putting together an oral history CD featuring a handful of those who participated in the first march.

I remember at the time of doing the interviews of being in awe of these people who had quite simply participated in something quite amazing, but who hadn’t really thought of it in those terms at the time. The aim of the project was to document in some way the experience of the many “ordinary people” who had taken part in the first parade and protest.

Listening back to it this evening was quite fascinating. For your listening pleasure, here’s a couple of brief extracts from the CD…

The Arrests

Inside The Cells

In stark contrast to the activism of almost thirty years ago, gay and lesbian culture in Sydney is now largely mainstream. In inner city circles, there’s an “uber-cool” attitude that sexuality is no longer an “issue” and there’s often an embarrassment in asking whether or not someone is gay. Beyond the inner-city, of course, it’s a vastly different story, but in Darlinghurst, Paddington, Surry Hills etc…

On Thursday night, for example, a mate of mine and I went to “Fruits In Suits” at Slide Cabaret. Fruits in Suits is organised by the Gay and Lesbian Business Association. As with the previous occasions I’ve been to “Fruits” I enjoyed myself immensely. I remember going to this about ten years ago and thinking the crowd attending were a bunch of wankers.

But in 2007, either I’ve changed or they have, and it’s an event I really enjoy attending. An older crowd, more interested in genuine conversation than anything else, it’s an event I’ll definitely continue to attend.

There was also live entertainment this time from a singer, Alfio, who was like a combination of Anthony Callea and John Foreman, sounding like the former, but looking like the latter. He’s performing at Slide on Monday night, but came along for a preview on the night. His music was not really to my taste, but his performance was okay nonetheless. Pretty mainstream, actually.

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