Midsumma Pride March promises to be the most significant event of 2021

Midsumma Pride March promises to be the most significant event of 2021

Words by Tammy Walters

Get your rainbow flags ready – Midsumma Festival’s annual Pride March is back to colour the streets of Melbourne, and this year also give your television a kaleidoscope hue.

Following an extraordinarily successful 34th year of festivities, Midsumma Festival rolled out a program of over 150 events bringing light back into our beloved Melbourne venues, even under tight Covid restrictions.

“It was highly successful, and we were very thrilled about that,” boasts festival CEO, Karen Bryant.

“It certainly hasn’t been easy to execute – and I think that’s the case across all of our events – but it’s been a shifting environment and it still is just constantly keeping and ear out for every news update. I think the main thing has been that every event has been planned so many different times, and so many different ways, because we would have had this well and truly planned by three quarters of the way through last year. It was a constant thing of reshaping and replanning and then also planning multiple versions. It kind of feels like an extended festival period even though the core festival has wound up.”

Midsumma Festival series will conclude with a massive glittery bang on Sunday 23 May with signature salutation, Midsumma Pride March.

Filtering through Fitzroy Street, the annual event commences with Dykes on Bikes preceding the marching contingent as per tradition, with the march itself led by Boon Wurrung Elders and a Rainbow Aboriginal Float along with the Premier of Victoria, Minister for Equality and the Creative Industries and Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality.

LGBTQIA+ community members and allies join the march each year as masses of 45,000 attendees champion them from the sidewalk. For 2021 the event will look slightly different the usual flood of fearless supporters.

“What we have happening on the 23rd is a multi-layered approach. In most of the planning we didn’t know how many people we might be allowed to have,” Bryant explains.

“We planned always to have something that was really exciting as a live event because that is so important to our communities – and I think in some ways is even more meaningful during a pandemic – but at the same time we wanted to ensure we were being smart and were planning a digital version as well that would buffer as a backup.”

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“The reason we’re having a digital event was that we’re not going to have the crowds at the sides of the roads that we would normally have, even though we will have a lot of people watching from cafes, bars and restaurants along that strip with a lot of people booked in to see it there and we have around 8000 marchers which is actually a really great effort – it’s one of the biggest events that has been given permission to go ahead in the covid environment and that’s because we have a really thorough Covid safe plan in place – but there will be people that still feel a bit vulnerable whether that be senior members of our community or people with ill health that don’t feel comfortable in attending live or participating in the march so we wanted to have a really strong digital version that actually is also really unique. We didn’t want people watching the digital version and feeling that they in any way were seeing a second-class event.”

That digital version will see the march mixed with dedicated content, including footage from the first ever pride march, interviews, and performances streamed live for the extended community to watch and still be a part of. The integration of digital allows for the march to reach more people and allow access to all members of the community.

“For the mainstream live event we’re also doing a dedicated audio described version for blind and low vision members of our community. There’s a whole range of levels again to ensuring that everyone has access to this event. It’s an event where we can still proudly represent all of our communities,” says Bryant.

In fact, 2021’s iteration, whilst not quite as big in physical live capacity, will be event bigger in scope, reach and importance.

“It’s probably more meaningful than any last year because we’ve all learnt over the past twelve months is the importance of coming together and the importance of gathering. We’ve all seen the heartbreaking images of the empty venues and empty streets and realise that public places don’t mean anything if people aren’t there enjoying them and activating them. That’s what Pride March is about – it’s about coming together! On top of that it’s the 40th anniversary of decriminalisation of homosexuality in Victoria, so there is a whole range of reasons that May 23 is going to be really significant and something to cherish and remember.”

Join Midsumma Pride March live stream on Sunday 23 May at 10.45AM over at the Midsumma Facebook page. More information here.