Written for Frooty Magazine, issue #14, published 09 February 2022.
While the official parade has relocated, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills will continue celebrating Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with their ‘Oxtravaganza’ festivities: a collaboration with Oxford Street’s bars, clubs, and local businesses who’re determined to continue throwing glitter where the party started.
“I’m looking forward to a bustling vibe on the street and a celebration of local community,” says Oxtravaganza founder Stephan Gyory. “We have a fantastic programme with lots of fun things to do for everybody, and lots of specials to encourage people to support their local businesses. Darlinghurst is one of the most welcoming and inclusive suburbs in the country, and people feel at ease when they come here.”
With Covid having a huge impact on Mardi Gras numbers in recent years, Gyory says the one thing Oxford Street businesses need this year is customers. Oxtravaganza’s purpose is to showcase the very best of its restauraunts, bars, and clubs, while also inticing Mardi Gras goers into its many queer-owned businesses.
“It’s to remind people we are here. That it’s not all doom and gloom, and that there is still a lot of beauty and fun left in the world. We have a creative, passionate community reflected in the types of businesses and premises in our area, and we love to share that with like-minded people.”
Launching alongside Oxtravaganza in 2022 is Potts Point’s ‘The Glittering Mile’. Founded by local partnership chair Brandon Martignano, in collaboration with Eastside Sydney, The Glittering Mile will extend Mardi Gras festivities further along Darlinghurst Road to Sydney’s quaintest, little gay ghetto.
“What makes Oxtravaganza and Glittering Mile incredible,” says Martignano, “is that both festivals work with the same intention. They’re both to celebrate the queer identity of the three postcodes, being Potts Point, Surry Hills, and Darlinghurst.
“Darlinghurst and Surry Hills are obviously centred on Oxford Street. Around the parade. Around the weight of the party. They have a heap of viewing opportunities, and obviously a heap of queer venues. They have these amazing interactions that are possible for them because they’re the queer centre.
“We found with The Glittering Mile that Potts Point has the residents. It’s an older demographic. And we’re starting to see more young people, but it’s still very much a part of Sydney’s ‘gaybourhood’. And it’s probably a bit more sophisticated: less of the late-night party vibes, and more of a dinner show, stay-and-play kind of world.
“So that’s where I see the two sides of the festival separated. Oxtravaganza is more youth focused—a little bit more fun, a little bit more upbeat—whereas The Glittering Mile is more about gallery openings, cabaret, cocktails, dinner shows, and stay-and-play at hotels. Things like that.”
Martignano’s 1930s-themed cocktail bar, Dulcie’s, will itself feature panels with Mardi Gras’ 78ers and crime historians discussing Sydney’s famous cliff murders. There’ll be womens-only (nude) life drawing classes, literary open mic nights, and the launch of a men’s sex podcast recorded live from the venue.
Start Mardi Gras off with a buzz by shopping late on February 17th before settling in with a cocktail to plan your next two weeks. There’s everything from bottomless brunches, cocktail nights, and viewing parties, to gallery exhibitions, ArtWalk, live performances, and history tours. There’s even Drag Storytime and clowning scheduled for the kids, and boutique minding services for your pets.
Lastly from Gyory, “a reminder to everybody—residents, businesses, and visitors alike—to assemble a crew, organise a shindig, or go have a drink or a lunch or a dinner, and enjoy Darlinghurst for the beautiful, independent, free, creative, non-judgemental place that it is.”