Cardiff Mardi Gras is back and this year there are a few changes. Firstly, 2012 sees Mardi Gras taking to the streets with Wales’ first ever LGBT parade. Afterwards, the event will move to Cooper’s Field to enjoy market stalls, cabaret, a fairground, and music acts from Ruth Lorenzo, Marcus Collins, Bright Light Bright Light, and a headlining Heather Small. Not to mention an official after party featuring lavish superclub producers SuperMartXé and the iconic Freemasons. Mardi Gras is going to be an all singing all dancing spectacular the likes the city has never seen before.
But those both familiar with the highlight of the Welsh capital’s LGBT calendar will however notice a few things different about Mardi Gras. Firstly, the fact that it’s one of the few LGBT events not labelled as a ‘pride’ sets it apart even from London.
‘Cardiff Mardi Gras is an event that is run by the LGBT community and their friends for the whole community,’ explains Lisa Buckley, one of Cardiff Mardi Gras’ volunteer committee members. ‘It is about creating equality through promoting visibility of the diverse communities in which we all live and work, and welcomes people from all ages and all communities. The term Mardi Gras is a historical one, which was decided by the very first organisers some 13 years ago but we feel it’s still very relevant today.’
Indeed, their website quotes that the event has a ‘…remit [to] work for the promotion of the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender, race or religion.’
The festival is also catering to families with young children, with a special ‘Youth Zone’ where those 16 years and under will have the chance to access qualified youth workers to deal with issues such as coming out and sexuality. Also, in the week leading up to the main event itself, there will be an accompanying arts festival taking place at various venues around the city.
But perhaps the biggest change this year is that Cardiff Mardi Gras has joined the increasing number of pride events that have started charging. ‘We would love to keep Mardi Gras free,’ explains Buckley, ‘but we have to be realistic, and despite the generous support of our supporters and funders this isn’t possible.’ It’s sad to see that like many other charities it is stuck on hard times due to economics and government policy forced to take such measures. But the decision to charge is pragmatic rather than defeatist. ‘As a charity it is our legal responsibility to ensure the organisation is sustainable and that the event is safe and appropriate in order for us to achieve our charitable aims.’ Indeed, at a mere £6 entry to Cooper’s field during the day (£3 for under sixteens, and free for under fives – a separate £17.50 is required to attend the SuperMartXé after party), the fare seems incredibly nominal when you look at what’s on offer. Of course, the parade itself can be enjoyed without charge.
No doubt entry fees will be a sticking point for more than a few community members. After all,
it’s not just charities that are finding cash hard to come by these days, and with many other pride events still not charging some may think it disingenuous to ask people to cough up in order to indulge and express their identity and/or support for the LGBT community. However, it is well worth bearing in mind that no-one involved in its organisation and execution is paid any fee, and all money raised goes back into the charity.
With the first ever Welsh LGBT parade , and some fantastic acts lined up to perform all on the back of the money raised by admission, 2012 will surely be a landmark year for Mardi Gras, an event that is set to grow in this small and welcoming friendly city. Iechyd da, bach!
Cardiff Mardi Gras will take place on 1 September 2012. Advance tickets are now available to purchase for the event. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit www.cardiffmardigras.co.uk.
Featured image: A reveller at the 2009 festival. Photograph: Welsh Icons (Dom) (Flickr).