This Mardi Gras, it’s all about the girls

Posted February 6, 2014 by Paul Gregoire & filed under City Hub.

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Women are playing a more central role at this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival, an event that has been criticised in the past for being too male-orientated.

The Dykes on Bikes are celebrating their 26th year in the parade and media officer Lyn Doherty expects to assemble about 180 women ranging from their early twenties to their late sixties.

“As always we will be starting the parade off with a huge roar,” Ms Doherty said.

“You know it’s about to start when you hear Dykes on Bikes coming down the street.”

Ms Doherty said the biggest change in women’s involvement is not who’s in the parade but who’s putting it on.

“The Mardi Gras committee and the organisers had a very male focus and there are a lot more females actually involved in all the hard work that goes into putting on the parade.”

DJ Sveta is co-curator of the HiFi bar space for women and gender-diverse people at Mardi Gras Party, which will feature an all-female DJ line-up.

“I’m trying to curate so there’s entertainment for and by not just women but trans-people,” she said. “I’m trying to introduce some music that people don’t normally associate with Mardi Gras.”

Ms Sveta told City Hub the Mardi Gras organisation now has more equality in its representation of genders.

“I feel like there’s been a really conscious change to be more inclusive not just of women but of trans-people as well,” she said.

But Mardi Gras is not all about the parade and the parties; there’s also a range of cultural and entertainment events.

Pinball is showing at the Tap Gallery as part of Mardi Gras. It’s a play about a lesbian mother who is fighting for the custody of her son.

Sarah Vickery, director of Pinball, said Mardi Gras had never appealed to her because she had thought of it as a male focused parade, but on realising it was a larger festival her attitude changed.

“It’s going to be a great experience for me because I’ve not actually been part of the festival,” Ms Vickery said.

“I’m going to go to Fair Day, which I’ve not done before. So really it’s all new for me.”

Emma Harris, who plays the lead in Pinball, said she has been in Mardi Gras plays before, which have tended to focus on men.

“It’s really exciting to be a part of one that really is about the girls. Lesbian couples do make up a large part of the community,” she said.

Women Say Something will be held at Sydney Town Hall and Steph Sands, the organiser, said women from diverse backgrounds will talk about the theme ‘dancing on the ceiling.’

“‘Dancing on the ceiling’ is a very loose and fun way of looking at success. [It’s] looking at celebrating some of the challenges we’ve actually got through,” she said.

Candy Royalle, performance poet, is part of Revolver which features a diverse range of women in the arts at the Paddington RSL.

“I really commend Mardi Gras this year in their efforts to be really inclusive and more than that to be really promoting queer women in the arts,” she said.