An insider’s guide to Sydney WorldPride 2023

Meet the two creative minds behind Sydney WorldPride, which is set to transform the Harbour City in February and March 2023 with hundreds of events, half a million partygoers and plenty of good times.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Sep 29 -
min read
Rooftop pool party located inside the ivy precinct, Sydney

Rooftop pool party located inside the Ivy precinct, Sydney - Credit: Pool Club at the Ivy

For the first time in the global LGBTQIA+ festival’s history, WorldPride will be hosted Down Under in the colourful streets of Sydney in 2023. From 17 February to 5 March, a long list of art, music, comedy, dining and community events will take over the city to celebrate creative expression and promote and advocate for LGBTQIA+ human rights around the world. We spoke to the festival’s creative directors Daniel Clarke and Ben Graetz about what to expect at Sydney WorldPride – what to see and why the two-week event is more than just a big party. 

Daniel Clarke and Ben Graetz (in drag as his alter ego Miss Ellaneous) at Taylor Square

Daniel Clarke and Ben Graetz (in drag as his alter ego Miss Ellaneous) at Taylor Square - Credit: Anna Kucera

Meet Daniel and Ben 

Daniel Clarke (he/him) is the Festival Creative Director and has led many top artistic events in Australia and the UK. He’s a champion of LGBTQIA+ artists and youth theatre. 

Ben Graetz (he/him) is the Festival Creative Director – First Nations. He is a descendant of the Iwaidja and Malak Malak clans in the Northern Territory and of Badu Island in the Torres Strait, and has spent more than 20 years working on creative projects that span First Nations and LGBTQIA+ identities. 

The Domain Dance Party will be a seven-hour outdoor festival for Sydney WorldPride, The Domain

The Domain Dance Party will be a seven-hour outdoor festival for Sydney WorldPride

WorldPride is a global pride celebration that’s been held around the world for more than 20 years, with hundreds of events and millions of attendees at every festival. What can people expect from Sydney WorldPride?  

Ben: Sydney WorldPride is a mega Mardi Gras; the city is being transformed in a 17-day LGBTQIA+ festival of fabulousness. Alongside much-loved Mardi Gras events like the Parade (which is back on Oxford Street!) and the official Mardi Gras Party, there will be hundreds of events all over the city and at Sydney’s most iconic locations. 

We have an Opening Concert headlined by Kylie Minogue; a Bondi Beach Party on the sands of Sydney’s world-famous beach; we’re leading a 50,000 strong Pride March across the Sydney Harbour Bridge; and we have an extremely exciting First Nations Gala Concert – like a Blak Met Ball – at the Sydney Opera House. 

Dan: There’s also Ultra Violet, a women’s party at the Town Hall; a Domain Dance Party; and a First Nations Gathering Space at Carriageworks; as well as WorldPride Arts and WorldPride Sports, our curated program of events in partnership with LGBTQIA+ artistic communities and sporting organisations. 

Ben: There really is something for everyone! And we’re expecting more than 500,000 people to participate in this global LGBTQIA+ family reunion. 

Sydneysiders created a giant human Progress Flag on the steps of the Sydney Opera House to celebrate WorldPride 2022, Sydney

Sydneysiders created a giant human Progress Flag to celebrate WorldPride 2022, Sydney - Credit: Daniel Boud    

This is the first time WorldPride has ever been held in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s a huge honour for Sydney. Why do you think the city was chosen?  

Dan: WorldPride is a global event hosted every couple of years in a major city around the world. Previously all have been hosted in the Northern Hemisphere, in places like London, New York and Copenhagen – but that is about to change! 

Sydney is well-known as being an inclusive place to visit for LGBTQIA+ people and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of the most famous Pride parades in the world. Sydney WorldPride gives us a great opportunity to stand together as an LGTBQIA+ community, not just in Australia and in the Asia-Pacific region. 

The focus on First Nations LGBTQIA+ arts and culture across the festival will be a big point of difference and we can’t wait to showcase this to the world. 

First nations gathering space, Sydney WorldPride 2023

First Nations Gathering Space will celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creativity

Sydney is the home of the Gadigal people, just one of the hundreds of diverse cultural First Nations People found across Australia. How is this ancient connection to culture going to be celebrated at Sydney WorldPride? 

Ben: With Australia home to the oldest continuing culture on the planet, it's so important to ensure that the voices and visibility of First Nations LGBTQIA+ people are seen and heard throughout the festival. I’m really honoured and proud to be working with so many extraordinary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for Sydney WorldPride and am excited to be offering spaces, events and activations that are by and for First Nations people. There will be so many different events that the community can participate in, from cabaret and theatre shows to yarning circles, ceremonies and First Nations-only safe spaces. 

Arts Program at Sydney WorldPride, Sydney

The WorldPride Arts program will feature more than 60 individual experiences

Sydney WorldPride will have a packed calendar with hundreds of events and pop-up venues to attend. What are some must-sees that you’re most excited about? 

Ben: Both the First Nations Gathering Space and Blak & Deadly Gala Concert will be the first time major LGBTQIA+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander events of this scale have taken place in Australia. This will be a historic moment and an opportunity for all First Nations people to come together, gather, perform ceremony, and exchange stories and culture. The Gathering Space will be a place for everyone, and it will showcase the rich history of Australian First Nations people and also invite global First Nations LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirited communities [Indigenous People who identify as having both a masculine and feminine spirit] to share their culture, history and stories. Expect visual arts exhibitions, installations, performances, food, drinks, and something for the whole family! 

Dan: I am really excited about the incredible WorldPride Arts program that is being developed with so many arts and cultural organisations across Sydney. It features more than 70 events, including amazing exhibitions, theatre shows, music and a wonderful literature program. Most of the events will be global premieres, so WorldPride audiences will be the first to see them.   

I’m really looking forward to the Australian premier of Choir Boy, the Tony award-winning play about sexuality, race, hope, gospel music, and a young gay man finding his voice. I also can’t wait to catch Sex Magick, Nicholas Brown’s play about queerness, masculinity and South Asian-Australian identity and Maeve Marsden’s lesbian comedy at Belvoir Street, Blessed Union. There is also a wonderful choral festival being hosted by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir called Out & Loud & Proud. 

The Kaftana Pool Party at the Ivy Pool Club, Sydney - Credit Ann-Marie Calilhanna

Kaftana Pool Party at the Ivy Pool Club, Sydney - Credit: Ann-Marie Calilhanna

Tell us about Pride Amplified and a few of the specific parties you’re excited to see take place across the city.   

Dan: Pride Amplified is an open access arts and culture program and there will be all kinds of parties and events right across the city during Sydney WorldPride. Much-loved Sydney club Universal, on the famous Oxford Street strip, will be hosting a party every single night during Sydney WorldPride – so make sure you pack your dancing shoes! There’s also Sundaylicious – a sizzling women’s party – right on the edge of Sydney’s twinkling harbour! I’m also really excited for Club Arak. I went to this party back in 2003 and had the best time dancing to incredible Arabic music with a wonderful inclusive vibe.  

Sydney WorldPride 2023

Ultra Violet will be an event specifically for LGBTQIA+ women and their allies

It’s obviously going to be a big party, but what are some of the more serious issues that Sydney WorldPride will touch on? 

Ben: Sydney WorldPride is an inclusive festival for the whole LGBTQIA+ community. Particular events are not only going to be entertaining and fun, but also put our wonderful First Nations LGBTQIA+ Sistergirl & Brotherboy communities front-and-centre on a global stage. 

There's also a three-day Human Rights Conference at the Sydney ICC. It will shine a spotlight on global, regional and domestic human rights issues facing people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and variations in sex characteristics. It’s an incredible opportunity to come together and build a world in which all of us are free and equal, no matter who we are or whom we love. 

The Bearded Tit is a neighbourhood queer bar and creative space, Redfern

The Bearded Tit is a neighbourhood queer bar and creative space, Redfern - Credit: Bearded Tit

Sydney is famous as one of the top LGBTQIA-friendly destinations in the world. What should travellers see if they visit outside of WorldPride? 

Dan: I absolutely love The Red Rattler and The Bearded Tit as venues that support LGBTQIA+ independent artists, and recently I attended Queer Nu Werk by Performance Space, PACT and Moogahlin Performing Arts. It was an inspiring showcase of emerging queer artists from around the country. My favourite parties to dance at are Kooky (part of Vivid Live) and Loose Ends (held at Oxford Art Factory), which are really inclusive spaces. 

Ben: Like Dan, I love local queer-friendly venues such as The Bearded Tit and The Red Rattler. I also really love attending events at 107 Redfern and The Imperial Erskineville. There are always great shows, parties and performances to attend at all these venues all year round. 

Old Clare Hotel in Chippendale

The Old Clare Hotel in Chippendale

Any recommendations for places to eat, drink or stay when you’re in Sydney? 

Dan: One of my favourite places to stay is The Old Clare Hotel, I love its style and the beds are so comfortable! To eat...well I just had a delicious birthday lunch at Queen Chow. I love Apollo, too, and you can’t beat the comfort food of Una’s, before catching a show at Griffin Theatre or The Old Fitz

Ben: Claire’s Kitchen [by French-born Sydney drag queen Marc Kuzma] on Oxford Street and Japanese izakaya Gogyo in Surry Hills are my favourites! 

Sydney WorldPride will take place from 17 February to 5 March, 2023. Tickets are selling fast, and you can buy passes to some of the hottest sold-out events and parties via our special Sydney WorldPride packages. Sign up to the Sydney WorldPride newsletter to be the first to hear about new events and more ticket releases.  

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