In Melbourne, being midway through summer means different things to different people. It’s a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full kind of vibe. For the LGBTIQ community and their friends and family, it means mostly one thing – Midsumma Festival, the country’s biggest celebration of LGBTIQ arts and culture. This year, there are 141 events over 84 venues.

Festival director Tennille Moisel says the community’s particularly celebratory approach to adversity has seen Midsumma morph from a small gay and lesbian picnic in the late ’80s, to a full-blown, three-week celebration. “As a minority group, our community has a really different and funny way of dealing with adversity. And that is we go and dance about it,” she says. “We throw a really great party.”

The two biggest parties are Carnival and Pride March, but for those who prefer to celebrate away from the dance floor, check out more fun (and slightly obscure) events such as the National Water Polo League’s Pride Cup to Kath and Kim trivia.

This year Midsumma’s theme is marriage equality. We’re not quite there yet, but there’s still a lot to celebrate. Last year, Daniel Andrews became the first Australian Premier to march at Pride, along with his wife and about half his cabinet; same-sex adoption passed the Victorian Upper House; and we got Rowena Allen, Victoria’s first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner.

Midsumma is not only a chance for the queer community to celebrate its own culture, but also an opportunity for the wider community to show support for its LGBTIQ friends, family and the greater community.
“It’s things like Daniel Andrews marching that shows there’s a shifting momentum surrounding the rights of our community,” Moisel says.

“It’s the whiff of possibility. And it’s great that Midsumma can deliver that to the rest of the community, and show the widespread support that exists.”

Midsumma has also introduced a new acronym for 2016, with DGS (diverse gender and sexuality) replacing GLBTIQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer).

“Since Midsumma started, the community has become much more diverse. And now there’s been this shift towards inclusivity,” Moisel says.

“When we flashed forward 10 years, and asked ourselves what equality would look like, it’s this idea of inclusion. There will always be the need for a festival like Midsumma, but the community will be different, and the DGS acronym fits that.”

Moisel’s Top Five Things to Do at Midsumma:
The Lesbian Comedy Gala will feature some of Australia’s funniest ladies, including Hannah Gadsby, Cal Wilson and Sal Upton. Belly laughs will accompany a fully stocked bar, a pop-up Greek and Spanish cafe and an after party.

Australian cabaret icon Carlotta, one of Midsumma’s 2016 Champions, will set hearts ablaze in Carlotta Queen of the Cross.

According to Moisel, the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archive’s Queer History Walk is “just the best thing ever”.

“Last year it was Fitzroy, and this year it’s a twilight tour of South Yarra, where you’ll learn all about the queer history of the area.”

Playtime Staged Readings, “a competition of sorts”, is another one of Moisel’s picks. Now in its second year, the event aims to unearth new queer theatre writing. Gone, the winner of last year’s competition, premieres at this year’s festival.

Virtual Drag rounds out Moisel’s top five.

“It’s one of our premier events. And I’m really excited about it,” Moisel says.

“It’s an immersive 3D-projection-art experience held at the Testing Grounds (in South Melbourne). It runs for a week, and on the Friday of that week (February 5), we’ll produce a night of alternative performance art and music in conjunction with the exhibition.”

Midsumma runs from January 17 to February 7, 2016 at various locations around Melbourne. See the full program here.