Carnival is my favourite day of the year. Straight out, no hesitation – I love Carnival.
Carnival is the opener to what will be an action-packed, fun-filled three-week extravaganza known as Midsumma Festival. It’s cabaret, dance parties, food, social events, games, costumes, trivia, wild geese that fly with a moon on their wings and these are a few of my favourite things. Midsumma has been the crown jewel in Melbourne’s very glittery gay tiara.
So much happens at Carnival, it’s a mammoth of an event. Resplendent with stalls, food, drag queens, art, and wonder. It is brimming with excitment each and every year. However I want to tell you a bit about the vibe this year – because this was kind of a new dawn for queer culture. In the year of our lord 2017 the Australian government, finally after much toing, froing, kvetching and bickering, they passed a law to extend the Marriage Act to all people, regardless of gender. Cue the cheering masses! As of the 9th of January 2018, all Australians are treated with a special little gift, the recognition of one of their fundamental human rights. This new step into history marks a shift in the atmosphere at a queer festival like Carnival.
A sigh of relief was the soundtrack for the day. The fundraising and slogan chanting was replaced by rainbow flags emblazoned with “We did it”. The Vote Yes mantras and arguments dissolved in our mouths and our hearts were allowed to soften. The armour we all wore aginst our injustice began to dissapate. Through the ashes and muck of a divisive and expensive vote we sifted. Pouring over the discarded shards of doubt and fear we found glittering jewels of acceptance and celebration. Something, something – phoenix analogy.
In short, Carnival this year felt like we had moved on. Dancing on top of the wreckage of our past, it was a day of transition.
For me, the most significant example of this was the Minus18 precinct. Filled with happy young people all jamming out to the anthem that is “Milkshake” by Kelis, how could you not feel anything but pure joy to see them? My lonely, isolated teen years of self-hate were the polar opposite to this small merry band of young adults. Covered in rainbow flags and stickers, forming conga lines, and smiling from ear to ear, it brought tears to my eyes to know that their formative years would be filled with moments like this. It was like an answer to all the fear of what might happen should the gays be allowed to wed. Won’t somebody please think of the children!? Well Minus18 did and the world was better for it. Unlike my youth knowing no other real gay people until well into my teens, and even then most of them carrying it around like a shameful secret. These kids leapt and bounded around the tent laughing in a vision of things to come.
This display of the future LGBTIQA+ leaders and community spokespeople typified the vibe across the grounds.
On top of this, there were stalls galore! Everything from banking and insurance to art and religion was present. Even a tent all about psoriasis… sexy!
It was the perfect day to take a picnic and chill out in front of the main stage and enjoy the performances. My favourite being a rousing rendition of “I am Australian” that got everyone in the precinct singing along. What could have been more Australian? A community revelling under the sun in their newfound fair go attitude to marriage.
The family precinct boasted tons of activities for families of all shapes and sizes. The sports precinct saw everything from water polo to football and featured an impressive amateur wrestling competition. I didn’t compete. Personally, the last thing I would want is someone to be injured by my herculean strength…
The day culminates in a big dance party as the sun goes down.
Lights flash, and the earth shudders with dancing feet. Groups of people amass to partake in this final bonding ritual. Friends from years ago and new pals from the day come together to let go of themselves and enjoy the rhythm. People of all genders and identities dance, lock lips, and sing along loudly until it’s time to go home.
Carnival 2018 was a raging success, as it always is, and in no small part to the indefatigable, undefeatable queer community. After the worst year of struggle and pain, Midsumma is the antidote. So pop a bottle and fill up your glass with this years Midsumma festival. Look your friends and family in the eyes and smile in the knowledge that while the world isn’t perfect, there are places you can go where it nearly is. Shout “cheers!” and drink deeply of the blessing that is this moment. Let 2018 scrub you clean of the past and walk into a new day purified, and what better way is there to do this than to indulge in a little Midsumma nights dream?
5/5 drag queens on stilts
Check out the line-up for the Midsumma festival here.