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Sydney WorldPride

WorldPride is an international festival celebrating LGBTIQ+ culture and joy, and hosted by a city chosen by members of Interpride.

WorldPride has seen 20 years of international festivals with 7 cities hosting the event across the Northern Hemisphere.

In 2023, WorldPride will finally cross the equator to be hosted in a hub of the Asia-Pacific region: Sydney, Australia.

Sydney is a dynamic city with a sparkling personality and a heart of gold. Its brilliant blue harbour, and unique landscape present the perfect canvas for a big show – and boy, do we know how to put on a celebration!

2023

In 2023, this proud city will be celebrating our 50th Australian Gay Pride Week, our 45th Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, and the very first WorldPride in the southern hemisphere.

We will be effervescent with festivity, radiating with light and colour like the fireworks for which we are famous.

Sydney WorldPride has assembled a team of dedicated people with an extraordinary depth of talent, expertise, creativity, and commitment. People who have been involved in some of the biggest events ever hosted by this city and country. People who are eager to make this a memorable, exceptional WorldPride.

Australia is home to the oldest continuous culture in the world and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQI communities have their own distinct voices to share. Their contribution will be an integral part of Sydney WorldPride.

The Asia-Pacific region is extremely broad and varied: geographically, politically, and culturally.

Within the almost 30 countries that comprise the region, virtually every major religion and race is represented. Yet many of these people rarely get seen or heard on the world stage. Sydney WorldPride will give them that opportunity.

Not only will participants from diverse cultural backgrounds be allowed to express their pride, but LGBTIQ+ people who don’t have the same freedoms in their own countries, will be encouraged to celebrate their own national culture while celebrating who they are.

Sadly, among the many countries that comprise the Asia-Pacific region are governments, religious authorities and even citizens who are guilty of the most egregious violations of human rights. The LGBTIQ+ people in these countries invariably suffer the greater share of injustice and persecution.

Sydney WorldPride will help shine a light on these injustices. The three-day Human Rights Conference will be a platform for discussion, ideas exchange, and thought leadership that will not only bring these issues into sharp focus, but will give marginalised communities a sense of solidarity and support.

The Asia-Pacific region, and indeed, the world, is made up of communities within communities, hybrid cultures, multiple identities, but all under an umbrella of one universal love.

It is this love that makes us fearless.

Among the ancient ruins of the Acropolis, Athens, silhouetted by the glowing amber light of sunset, stands a group of 15 individuals. It is mid-October, 2019 and they are approaching the end of an exhausting campaign for the right to host WorldPride 2023 in Sydney. Their path to get to this point has been as winding, hard, and slippery as the time-weathered limestone steps they have just had to climb. Emblazoned on their t-shirts is the word that describes their shared passion: fearless. In less than three days, they will realise their dream – though they don’t know it yet…

It began in late 2018, when Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) decided it was time for a WorldPride to be held in the other hemisphere. (Each of the preceding seven WorldPride cities chosen have been in Europe, Middle East and North America.)

Kate Wickett, then Co-Chair of SGLMG and a full-time executive of a leading bank, decided she had just enough spare time to gather a team, organise an advisory committee, procure funding, and launch a bid. Robyn Kennedy, fellow board director and 78er, and Kate then led the bid.

Kate and Robyn received a letter from Premier Gladys Berejiklian expressing her full support and agreeing to provide funding from the Department of Premier and Cabinet to run the bid.

Once they’d secured funding,  the team fired up all four burners – an application for the opportunity to pitch had to be lodged with Interpride at least 90 days before the AGM in October, 2019. That gave them little over six months to produce a 158 page document addressing the long list of criteria, presenting credentials, and delivering a compelling argument for why Sydney should host WorldPride 2023.

Interpride is a membership organisation comprised of representatives from pride groups around the world. Currently there are 366 members from 61 different countries – anyone of them can bid to host WorldPride. A WorldPride committee assesses all applications to host and selects a shortlist of hopefuls who then have to deliver an onstage pitch at the next AGM.

The three candidates vying for WorldPride 2023 were Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (Australia), Fierté Montreal (Canada), and Houston Pride (USA).

The 2019 Interpride AGM was held in Athens, Greece. It was a four day conference featuring events and seminars and, of course, parties. Pitches for WorldPride would be held on the last day of the conference.

The atmosphere was festive and electric, but the Sydney contingent was there on a mission. The team of 15, which included members of SGLMG, creatives and performers, and Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, wore uniform black t-shirts, behaved impeccably, and campaigned fearlessly.

The day before the conference commenced the entire team went to the summit of the Acropolis, where they walked among the remains of the Parthenon and gazed down at one of the oldest cities in the world. As the soft orange hues of dusk settled around them, they began to focus on the next four days ahead of them and talked about the importance of being a team and the culture they wanted to create.

The months leading up to this point had been hectic and fraught for everyone involved, and these final few days were really testing the seams of stability. So Kate, who in the past had played many team sports at senior level, gave her team a netball-themed pep talk. She spoke about how each person had a specific role that required particular skills; how there were boundaries that needed to be respected; and how, ultimately, they needed to work together to achieve their goal.

They coalesced. And now they were primed for the showdown.

The final event took place in a large reception hall at the Athens Hilton. Each candidate had 30 minutes to deliver a live pitch in front of 600 people who would then vote for a winner. The pitching order was drawn randomly – Sydney was first.

Creative directors, Ben Graetz and Kat Dopper helped design, curate, and present the pitch.  Ben Graetz is an extraordinary multi-talented artist from Darwin. Kat Dopper is a creative director and producer who has delivered many iconic LGBTQI+, large scale events.

The presentation began with an image on a large screen; a slowly panning shot of a gumtree, quietly underscored with sounds of the bush and accompanied by Ben and Graham Simms (a Gadigal elder) speaking in reverent tones about their culture – the oldest continuous culture in the world. While this was happening, other members of the team were distributing small bunches of eucalyptus leaves to people in the audience. (Eucalyptus trees, it turns out, are also native to Greece.)

Ben and Graham spoke about the challenges faced by First Nations and queer people. They spoke about connection to the land. Then they instructed everyone in the room to crush the gum leaves, rub them between their hands and smell the eucalyptus. Ben told them:

“That’s the smell of Australia.”

The emotional impact was palpable. The bid was virtually won at that moment.

But there was more to come…

A video presentation featured messages of support from high ranking politicians including Simon Birmingham, Andrew Bragg, Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek, Richard Di Natali, Sarah Hanson Young.

In a less demure statement, leading indigenous drag queens, Joseph Cardona, Graham Simms, Ben Graetz gave a sublime performance.

The following day, the moment of truth came in a rather cryptic form. The MC declared “The winner is…” then pointed to a bar chart on the screen.

It took a few seconds to register the 60% landslide victory before the Sydney team erupted in jubilation!

WorldPride 2023 was coming Down Under.

Sydney WorldPride (SWP) is now a brand.

The last year has been an immersion in paperwork and governance house-keeping; getting funding; writing a constitution; setting up an office. (Not nearly as exciting as sunset at the Acropolis.)

Negotiations over seven months with Interpride resulted in the development of a booklet which incorporates a value statement, protection for Interpride and SWP and a clear statement of deliverables for WorldPride.

The team drew on the insights gained by SGLMG in its 42 years as an LGBTQI+ arts organisation to inform and create a document that is a legacy and a template for future WorldPride events.

Sydney WorldPride will also be paying for a full-time Interpride Project Manager to assist with governance and delivery of Sydney WorldPride 2023.

We have started to recruit new team members and a callout has been made for expressions of interest for a number of key advisory roles.

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View the Bid Document