United We Shine – Sydney Mardi Gras Creative Director On The 2022 Theme

The 2022 theme for Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras is 'United We Shine’.

United We Shine

It's simple, really – when we come together as a community, when we rise as a collective and when we join to celebrate love and inclusion, we shine brighter than ever.

The future of our rainbow family is bright, but that's not to say there won't be challenges along the way. 'United We Shine' is the signifier that togetherness will help to get us through those challenges. Now is the time for us to unite. This is our time to shine!

Mardi Gras has, over the years, presented itself as a fearless march in the face of adversity, and a beacon of diversity – each time it returns, its theme provides attendees with an insight into the festival's goings-on, and its focus for the year.

Here, Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras Creative Director Travis Conneeley tells us about his role, as well as what this year's theme 'United We Shine' encapsulates, and how it will be celebrated throughout the festival.

First of all, tell us a bit about your general role as the festival’s Creative Director.
Sure! The festival Creative Director helps provide the festival theme and a vision for the overall experience of many events produced by Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras. This includes working alongside the talented internal team and in some cases external community advisors and professionals to help bring the theme and creative vision to life as best as possible within budget, timeline and other constraints across various events and executions. This can include event line-ups, shows and scenic to general festival comms, design, ideation, sponsor engagement and more.

You’ve had your fair share of involvement with Mardi Gras over the years. What has made you such a fan of the festival?
My first Parade, Party and festival was back in ’95. At the time I was newly out and experienced a huge eclectic community coming together, connecting, bursting with talent, inspiring new perspectives and rising up together to overcome adversity. It was so powerful and incredibly important to me at the time. I had somewhere I could belong. Fast forward many festivals, Parties, and Parades later and each year I am still blown away by what our community can achieve by coming together. It’s the rich history, my own experience and that pride in my community that keeps me passionate about Mardi Gras to this day.

And what’s your favourite thing about Mardi Gras every year?
Seeing all our community and allies come together, connecting, expressing themselves, supporting each other. It brings me such pride.

Travis Conneeley
Travis Conneeley

This year’s theme is ‘United We Shine’. Tell us about what the theme means to you.
At its heart, the theme is all about how coming together we can achieve great things. Our own history proves this. After all, many in our community are now able to live and love freely, honestly and with dignity thanks to the coming together of those before us. I’m forever grateful to the 78ers and others who so bravely led the path. The theme comes to life at each festival too. Each year the festival provides a platform for our community to come together and connect, be seen, be heard, educate, to showcase our talent, expression, diversity and more. It’s an opportunity for our friends and allies to amplify their support too. It also provides an opportunity for us to more loudly raise our voice and perspective on important matters, achieving positive outcomes for our community. . . Just as those before us have. Finally, while I’ve observed our community becoming even more wonderfully diverse over the years, I also personally feel it has become more fragmented. There’s a nice reminder in the theme about how working harmoniously together can result in even greater things, which is a nice circle back to our history too.

What goes into picking the theme for an entire festival?! How do you decide on one?
For me, it was important the theme was relevant to our past, our purpose, our community, our supporters/partners and the actual events. I was also keen to factor in the current zeitgeist, which at the time was mid-lockdown where many in our community were feeling isolated, disconnected, and who craved belonging. With all that in mind, and internal feedback to date, I pulled together three theme ideas each scored against the points above. These were presented to the internal leadership team who chose ‘United We Shine’. There’s another one I love too that might have an opportunity at a future festival should it still resonate at the time.

How will the theme be showcased and celebrated particularly at the Parade this year?
The theme comes to life naturally across much of what we do, especially at the Parade. . . I mean really, where does our community shine brighter? You’ll see many of our fabulous community and partner floats bring our theme to life creatively. Plus, given we’re in the stadium once more, you’ll also see it come to life in signage, the warm-up, commentary, the broadcast, and performances. If you’re in Sydney, make sure you grab tickets as it should be a truly incredible whole community experience.

Flag Raising

More expansively, how do you think this theme is represented across Mardi Gras 2022’s offering of events?
Again, the theme comes to life naturally across many events. Whether it be through the diversity of community artists, talent, opinion and expression on show, or simply the coming together of those in our community to connect and have fun.

What is your biggest hope for what attendees take away from their experiences at Mardi Gras this year?
Connect with your community. Be open to exploring its diversity, expression and perspectives. Stand up for each other. Only together can we make the future brighter for all our community.

Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras is on from 18 February-6 March.


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