Held at the Parramatta River Foreshore Reserve opposite the ferry wharf, the Picnic is in its 12th year of cultivating queer community out in Sydney’s western suburbs.
It’s been a year since the plebiscite resulted in a majority across the nation voting for same-sex marriage to be legalised. Yet, areas of Sydney’s west bucked the trend with a significant majority voting no.
For the Parramatta Pride Picnic’s event organisers at ACON (Aids Council of NSW), this result was initially disheartening. Over the preceding decade, considerable work had been done to build the picnic into a space in the western suburbs where LGBTIQA+ people could feel safe, wanted and included.
But what could have been seen as a crisis became an opportunity. The majority “no” vote was a challenge that made the visibility of the LGBTIQA+ community all the more important. This year’s theme reflects this: no one left behind. In the face of adversity, Parramatta Pride Picnic wants to battle isolation, disconnection and homophobia by celebrating the joyful multitudes of queer identity.
For Gav Prendergast, coordinator of partnerships and engagement with ACON, no one left behind is a direct response to the marriage equality vote. “We want to be seen and celebrate our love and difference. It’s important to be visible and alive and loving our lives.”
The community has responded in kind. Around 35 to 40 local businesses are participating in the event by putting up stalls along the foreshore. Music from western Sydney artists will be playing throughout the day. There are classic picnic events scheduled such as tug-of-war and an egg and spoon race, as well as a kids face painting area, and a fully licensed bar.
The event will feature more camp entertainment this year with drag performances going throughout the day, and a reading of stories commemorating 40 years of Sydney Mardi Gras. A ‘Gaymazing Race’ (that’s a gay take on the Amazing Race) has been organised to run throughout Parramatta CBD. A “Priscilla Ferry” will also leave Circular Quay in the morning for Parramatta. Organisers are saying that it’s destined to be a frock-filled and fabulous floating affair.
For the first time, Western Sydney University’s Queer Collective will have a stall in place. WSU students that visit the stall may enter a draw to win prizes.
Gav Prendergast says that in the wake of last year’s vote, young people, particularly those struggling with their identity or sexuality, need to see love and solidarity in events like Parramatta Pride Picnic. “It’s important for young kids that we show them we shouldn’t shy away. We’re still here, there’s a reason to celebrate. We’re not leaving anyone behind even if your neighbours are numbskulls and voted no.”
Parramatta Pride Picnic will be running from 11am to 5pm down at the Parramatta River Foreshore Reserve on the 28th of October. Check out the Facebook event here.
Story by Toby Hemmings