The organisers of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras have announced that the iconic festival will go ahead this year – but it will look very different to the event we know. While the full details are yet to be released, it’s been confirmed that the festival’s annual parade down Oxford Street – one of the biggest Mardi Gras parades in the world – won’t take place. Instead, it will be moved to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on March 6.

“Not only is the SCG close to our spiritual home of Oxford Street, but it also provides the safest venue for us to hold the event and meet requirements of physical distancing and contact tracing,” Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger said in a statement.

The Covid-safe “parade” will be ticketed next year, with an audience capacity of 23,000. The event will be broadcast live so Mardi Gras fans from across the country can take part from home. This year’s event will also break with the parade’s outrageous floats, and focusing instead on vivacious costumes, puppetry and props. Mardi Gras is currently working with NSW Health on continuing with other key events, including the annual Fair Day.

The 2021 Mardi Gras theme will be “Rise”, a tribute to the trials of 2020 – and a signal of Mardi Gras’s new direction. A new program, “Always On”, will see Mardi Gras better support the LGBTQI+ community year-round, commissioning and developing queer performance and content, putting its weight behind community and grassroots projects and organisations, and speaking out against social injustice.

This year’s Mardi Gras parade was one of the last major events to be held in Sydney before gatherings of more than 500 were temporarily banned.

“It is poignant that this year’s parade was the last major event held before we had to go into lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus,” City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in a statement. “I know many in our community, myself included, have held on to our happy memories of Mardi Gras 2020 to get us through this challenging year.

“Mardi Gras will look different in 2021 but importantly it will give us the opportunity to come together safely and celebrate. I look forward to the day when tens of thousands of Sydneysiders and visitors from around Australia and the world can gather on Oxford Street once more.”

The 2021 Mardi Gras parade will be held at the SCG on March 6. Tickets cost $20 and go on sale on November 9 here.