February 15, 2021

Celebrating without champagne: A guide to Mardi Gras 2021’s drug and alcohol-free programming

It can often feel as if there’s a drink at the epicentre of every LGBTQ event, especially celebratory events like Mardi Gras. If you’re someone who is trying not to drink or use drugs, or if you’re trying to cut back a little bit, or perhaps you’ve never been that comfortable in settings where people are drinking or using, then it can be hard to celebrate being proud of who you are when most chances to celebrate this pride come with a glass of champagne. 

Mardi Gras looks a little different this year. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, a lot of the events we’ve come to love at Mardi Gras have been postponed. But, there’s still some great events on offer if you’re looking for an opportunity to celebrate pride and community minus the drugs and booze!  

Please note: at many of these events, there is a bar available, however, we’ve chosen to highlight them because the bar isn’t the focus, and these events can be enjoyed without alcohol or drugs.  


Queer Thinking: This year, Queer Thinking has three sessions curated by Patrick AbboudBenjamin Law, and Julie McCrossin. These thought-provoking sessions will feature virtual international speakers, and can be attended in person or via virtual audience. 
Saturday 27th February
NSW Teachers Federation, 37 Reservoir St, Surry Hills or online


My Drag StoryMy Drag Story uncorsets seven queens, kings and gender-defying royals to reveal what’s beyond the painted façade. Curated by Amelia Airhead and featuring local drag icons including Cindy Pastel, Nana Miss Koori, Sexy Galexy and more.
Saturday 27th February, 8pm
NSW Teachers Federation, 37 Reservoir St, Surry Hills 


My Trans Story: My Trans Story features proud trans and gender diverse storytellers from Sydney and beyond celebrating their complex, sometimes funny, often fearless, always fierce histories.  
Friday 26th February, 6pm
NSW Teachers Federation, 37 Reservoir St, Surry Hills 


Show Ponies: Making Constellations: The Show Ponies Art Exhibition is a chance for young LGBTIQA+ folks aged 12-25 to show and sell artwork, with the sale prices going directly to the artists! There’s a BBQ as well.
Saturday, 27th February, 1-4pm
Newtown Neighbourhood Centre


Growing Through with Nerissa Trindade: Growing Through is the story of Nerissa’s life – the failures and triumphs of growing up as a gay woman of colour. A journey of resilience and courage to break through generations of conditioning, and rediscover and rebuild herself to live authentically as who she was always meant to be.
Wednesday 3rd March, 7pm


Mardi Gras Film Festival: There are over 60 screenings happening across Sydney, and, for the first time ever, Mardi Gras film festival will also be online and on-demand, so you can watch from your couch, whenever suits you during the festival!
18th February – 4th March
Moonlight Cinemas, Event Cinema George St, Randwick Ritz, and others
OR your very own couch via on-demand! 


NAS Queer Contemporary: Skin Deep: SKIN DEEP is an interactive exhibition that presents intimate and personal stories of LGBTQI+ people through their tattooed bodies and stories, celebrating diversity, defiance and body art.
18th February – 7th March
Cell Block Theatre, National Art School 


Thou Shalt Not! (And So I Did!): A biographical journey of Tim McKew, one of Australia’s unsung queer heroes. 
Saturday, 27th February, 7pm
State Library of NSW 


Meet the 78ers: The original 1978 Mardi Gras marchers share their stories via Zoom. Learn more about the origins of Mardi Gras, the arrests on the night of 24 June 1978, and what happened next, from those who were there.
Sunday 21st February, 4pm


We might not have found everything… 

If you know of a drug and alcohol-free event over Mardi Gras not on this list, email aod@acon.org.au. 


Image by Sallie Colechin for the Meet the 78ers event.