Tens of thousands of maskless LGBT+ folk celebrate at Sydney Mardi Gras

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade

Around 36,000 revellers attended Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Saturday (6 March), with no need for masks or social distancing.

While 2020 saw nearly every major LGBT+ festival either cancelled or converted into digital-only events, Sydney’s Mardi Gras celebration has given the global LGBT+ community a glimpse into what the not-so-distant future could look like.

Rather than the usual parade through the city, the joyful rainbow celebration took place at Sydney cricket ground, a COVID-secure venue.

The televised 43rd Mardi Gras parade saw crowds cheer on headliner Rita Ora as well as as 5,000 marchers, across 120 parade entries.

Rita Ora performs during the 43rd Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade at the SCG on 6 March, 2021. (Getty/ Brendon Thorne)

The huge celebration was made possible by Australia’s incredible handling of COVID-19, having only recorded around 29,000 cases and 900 deaths since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of New South Wales has not seen a single local COVID-19 case in 48 days.

The theme of the 2021 Mardi Gras was “rise”, chosen “after the challenge and hardship” of the past year.

New South Wales police assistant commissioner Talbot told the BBC in a statement: “We knew Mardi Gras was going to look very different in 2021, so I’d like to thank the community for coming together today and celebrating peacefully and safely.

“We are in a unique position in Australia to be able to host events of this scale during a global health pandemic, and I commend the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras team for planning such a well-organised, COVID-safe event.”

Sydney Mardi Gras

The 2021 Mardi Gras festival theme was ‘RISE’ and is about letting spirits soar after the challenge and hardship that 2020 presented. (Getty/ Brendon Thorne)

However, although the parade and performances were able to go ahead, the traditional late-night after parties are still not permitted.

Mardi Gras organisers said last month: “While we had looked towards the New Year with hope that we could stage these events in a safe format, the reality is that hosting any dance party events would pose too much risk to the health and safety of our community if they were to go ahead.

“We had workshopped many different event plans to find a way to make these events work, but with the current health orders we felt it best to hit the pause button for this year and bring them back when we know it’s safe to do so.”