I’m going to Sydney WorldPride 2023

What is WorldPride and why am I going? For those who don’t know, WorldPride is a massive event held every few years that promotes and celebrates LGBTQ+ people and issues through parades, festivals, a human rights conference and dozens of cultural activities, not to mention loads of partying. WorldPride is usually synced up with the host city’s own annual Pride event.

Here are the cities that have had or will have WorldPride. I’m lucky to have been to the ones in London and Toronto and now Sydney. I’ll be there from February 18th to March 7th.

I only recently learned that Sydney beat out my city of Montreal for WorldPride 2023.

But, to be fair, Sydney has good reason to have it this year as the event will, as Wikipedia says, coincide with the 45th Anniversary of the first Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and 5th Anniversary of same-sex marriage in Australia. Its goal is “to celebrate the diversity of culture and identity in the Asia Pacific region, shine an international spotlight on First Nations culture and draw attention to LGBTIQ+ human rights abuses” plus offer a huge range of activities in the arts, sport and theatre along with concerts and, did I mention?, the parties.

From what I’ve read, it sounds like the organizers have worked out a good compromise between some people feeling that the event would be “too political” and others who feel that it would be “too corporate and not political enough” – the constant debate surrounding many Pride events worldwide. Is it a protest or is it a celebration? IMHO it can easily be both at the same time.

In any case, it all sounds good to me and I’m lucky and privileged to be able to go.

My Relationship with Sydney

Why am I travelling around the world to attend this event?

Some of you who know me and/or who have read parts of this memoirs website of mine will remember that I spent a very formative 16 months of my life living in Sydney back in 1972/73 when I was 22/23. I came out as gay there with a big bang and was intimately involved in the politics, consciousness-raising, sex and parties of Sydney Gay Liberation and all that that entailed. You can check out all the details of that seismic event for me here on my website.

July 1972 – Me at a Demo in Sydney. Photo by the late John Storey

So, for me, Sydney WorldPride is the 50th anniversary of that crucial period of my life – what more reason could I need to attend?

Getting There

This will mark the third time I’ve been back to Sydney since I departed in tears in 1973. For you air travel aficionados out there, you may like to know that my first trip back to Sydney in 1988 required 3 stops to get there: London-SF-Hawaii-American Samoa-Sydney. When I went with my partner, David, for the Sydney Gay Games in 2002, it took 2: Montreal-Vancouver-Hawaii-Sydney. And this time it will just take one on Air Canada: Montreal-Vancouver-Sydney. I used to love taking off and landing but, at my age, I just want to get there.

I’m on display at WorldPride – and Proud!

When I lived in Sydney those 50 years ago, I had a camera with me and, following in the footsteps of my father, I would take snapshots of places I visited and people I met. I also collected bits and pieces such as programs, ticket stubs, brochures, personal documents and packed them up and stored them – mostly in my father’s basement in Toronto – for decades. My Dad eventually told me to get them out and I did. Looking through them, I realized there were many stories to be told using them – hence my website.

That led me to use some of those photos and ephemera in my posts. Those posts about my time in Sydney caught the eye of some archivists in Australia and, long story short, all of my slides and boxes of memorabilia from my time in Australia ended up being shipped over to the Australian Queer Archives and the State Library of New South Wales. I was very pleased and happy that they were willing to house them because they felt that they might be of some value and interest to future generations.

What and Where?

I’m proud to have discovered that some of my memorabilia are being shown in exhibitions linked to WorldPride. Here’s a link to the promo for the Pride (R)evolution Exhibition at the State Library of NSW – see Image 3 of 9.

To save you time, here is that Image 3:

A photo of mine used in the promo for the Pride (R)evolution Exhibition at the State Library of NSW.

I’m anxious to discover what else of mine will be used and I’ll certainly be checking out that exhibition. I’ll also be meeting the curators who encouraged me to get my archives to Sydney and who helped curate the exhibition, Margaret Riley and Bruce Carter.

The Party

Then there’s an exhibition simply called “The Party” put together at the University of New South Wales Galleries by Jose da Silva and Nick Henderson. There aren’t any photos of mine there but what they did do is take all the ticket stubs I’d collected during my time in Sydney, photographed both sides of them, mounted them on a poster, then put many of those posters together and created an entire wall of them. I was absolutely gobsmacked at the labour that must have gone into that – not to mention ingenuity.

Old Friends

Then there will be time spent with my friends with whom I’ve kept in touch over the decades, like Henry, Jeffrey and my old lover, Bruce. We’ll be keeping busy together. With Henry, we’ve decided to take a side trip to Melbourne for a few days to check out the Australian Queer Archives at the brand new Victorian Pride Centre. Marvellously coincidentally, my old friend, Dennis from London, will be visiting his hometown of Melbourne at the same time I’ll be there so it will be another reunion.

The new Victorian Pride Centre in Melbourne

I’ll be seeing new friends like Jenny (the friend of our now deceased friend, the photographer John Storey) and Diane. Diane is the teacher with whom I worked back in those early days in Sydney who saved me from both the rambunctious pupils and the scary nuns. We hadn’t been in touch since I left Sydney but she happened to google me one day and up popped my website. She started reading it and, lo and behold, Diane saw herself talked about in one of my posts! And she contacted me. That’s a story that warms my heart.

Party Time – not

One thing I won’t be doing is going to the late night parties that are happening most nights of WorldPride. That’s a big change from the old days of my youth. I might make it to the Domain Dance Party which starts at 3pm and finishes by a reasonable 10pm.

I would not, though, miss the infamous Mardi Gras Parade which returns this year to Gay Central of Sydney – Oxford St. And there will also be a WorldPride March across the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge on the closing day with, I imagine, hundreds of thousands of people.

Sydney’s Harbour Bridge

Did I mention the dozens of drag shows and events that are sprinkled liberally throughout the schedule? I will always remember my first impressions of Sydney (and Australia) as being both more camp/queenier and more butch than my Canadian eyes had ever been exposed to – and both more homophobic and more bold and brave at the same time. The film, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert“, comes to mind because it exemplifies both extremes of this wide continuum. That discussion deserves a whole post of its own.

When I get back, I’ll reveal all about my time down under!

Ta ta for now.

PS. Thanks to Larry Baer for helping me with this post.

23 thoughts on “I’m going to Sydney WorldPride 2023

  1. Peter Paproski says:

    Have a marvellous time dawling. Can’t wait to hear all about it. Delighted for you that you’ll be there and congrats and bravo for sharing your stories and artifacts. Cheers!!

  2. Tyrone Deere says:

    Gregg, have a great 50th anniversary of your coming out in Sydney so long ago with courage. The march is an annual nightlight here l try to watch on TV.
    This year even our Prime Minister is going to march.
    I hope you have the health to enjoy many events.

  3. Peter MacMillan says:

    Thanks for sharing your Australian plans Gregg. It sounds like a wonderful trip which in addition to everything else will bring back lots of memories of your exciting youth! The Madi Gras parade is amazing with lots of music and costumes. The late night dance after the parade was fun for me 30 years ago but less so when I went more recently and I don’t think it was because I was older – it just seemed far less gay – so you aren’t missing much by not going.

      1. Bob Cant says:

        Another great post, Gregg. Thanks very much. I was particularly struck by the story about your re-discovered teacher friend, Dianne.

        I hadn’t realised how much your photographic story telling was a continuation of a pattern started by your father.

        Most of all, hope you enjoy the trip and I look forward to hearing all about it. xoxo

      2. Gregg Blachford says:

        I appreciate your detailed reading of my post, Bob. Thanks. And I’m happy to finally be giving credit to my father for getting me in the habit of photographing and hoarding! xoxo

  4. Barb Blachford Mason says:

    Another great post Gregg. Love your ticket stub wall! Wishing you smooth travels and come home safely. love from your proud sister xo

  5. Josef Cabey says:

    Fabulous Gregg. Have a grand time. That’s so great about the archives, it’s all so important. My neighbour here in Brighton is off there tomorrow too. He used to be a drag performer there (Mitzi Macintosh) & is reviving the act for the event. Keep well. x Josef

    1. Gregg Blachford says:

      It will be fun going back to “our” school after half a century. Just sorry that Sister Veronica, our pal in the Convent, passed away and won’t be able to join us at the reunion! See you soon! xo

  6. Christopher DiRaddo says:

    Oh Gregg, how exciting!! How amazing that they’ve been able to use what you’ve collected over the years and that you get to go back to see it all. Thanks to you for being such a great chronicler of our history. Only wish I could go with you!!

    1. Gregg Blachford says:

      Thanks, Chris. If I’m not too knackered, I’ll try and Zoom in for the next Violet Hour Book Club on the 4th from there. I enjoyed reading our next book, Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan Coyote, and I’d love to hear what others thought of it. xoxo

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