Candles in the Cross recognises the seminal events of 24 June 1978 with the arrest and charging of 53 participants in a gay rights march on Darlinghurst Road. These events led to the establishment of the now internationally acclaimed Mardi Gras Festival.
Many claims and counterclaims circulate about our first Mardi Gras. Drawing on Pride History’s interviews with 42 ‘78er and the Police Charge Sheets.
Enjoy a talk about the history of the Kings Cross events and a screening of the telemovie Riot.
Join historians Gavin Harris & John Witte who answer questions such as why did the police arrest 53 people on that cold winter night, in June 1978? Join the producer and writer of Riot!, Louise Smith and Greg Waters.
The event concludes with a procession led by Mother Inferior of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to the El Alamein fountain where a ceremony laying 53 candles will take place. The ceremony recognises that the 53 people arrested on that fateful night shone the light on the way forward to equality.
When: Sunday 25 February 2018 from 7pm to 10.45pm.
Where: Wayside Chapel, 29 Hughes St, Potts Point. (Tickets Only)
Then join the procession to El Alamein Fountain at 10pm.
Image - 'RIOT’: In June 1978 the inaugural Mardi Gras March was a walk up Darlinghurst Road to El Alamein Fountain by those who were unwavering in their fight for decriminalisation, recognition and equality. It turned into a riot when police arrested over 50 people.
The crowd arrives at the El Alamein Fountain. © Branco Gaica photographer
Darlinghurst Road explodes. © Branco Gaica photographer. By 12.35, the police had arrested 51 people and taken them to Darlinghurst Police Station. Images courtesy KX Arts & Cultural Festival
The first Mardi Gras, 40 years on
Myth busting facts from historians Gavin Harris and John Witte
Forty years on, we’re still arguing about what happened at the first Mardi Gras. Who was there and what were they trying to do? Why did 53 of them end up in the Darlo clink? Why do they still expect apologies?
John Witte and Gavin Harris claim that when the cops confiscated their flat back, the revellers repeated defied their directions. Then when Inspector Millar told his men that the revellers were taking part in an unauthorised procession, the heavy-handed cops went for it. Read the evidence and have your say.
What happened at Sydney’s first Mardi Gras?
1. What was gay and lesbian Sydney like in 1978?
2. Who organized the first Mardi Gras?
3. Why did the activists organize a Saturday night street party?
4. Where did the idea come from?
5. Was it a demonstration, march or parade?
6. Why was the authorized route so short?
7. Did the organizers provoke the police?
8. Who got arrested and what did they get charged with?
9. Why did the Sydney Morning Herald publish their names, ages, addresses and occupations?
10. Were the police using the Mardi Gras to embarrass the Labor government?
11. Did people lose their jobs?
12. Did people get hurt?
13. Were the police out of control?
14. What impact did Mardi Gras ’78 have on Sydney’s gay and lesbian life?
15. Did the police drop the charges?
16. What role did Rupert Murdoch play in our story?
17. Can we say that Mardi Gras ’78 was Sydney’s Stonewall?
Candles in the Cross: The young, the old and the police unite
The event screening of the Riot at the Wayside Chapel ... concluded with a procession led by Mother Inferior of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to Fitzroy Gardens where a ceremony laying of 53 candles took place. The ceremony recognised that the 53 people arrested on that fateful night shone the light on the way forward to equality.
A truly uniting, passionate and teary night at the Wayside Chapel and across television screens around Australia last night recognised the seminal events of 24 June 1978 with the arrest and charging of 53 participants in a gay rights march on Darlinghurst Road. These events led to the establishment of the now internationally acclaimed Mardi Gras Festival.