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First Auckland Pride Programme Announcement Offers Queer Celebrations In All Corners Of Tāmaki Makaurau

The first wave of the open-access programme from Auckland Pride Festival 2021 has just gone live, with an incredible range of community created events spanning right across the city. Extending to the full month of February for the very first time, the community has embraced the 2021 theme – 'Karanga Atu, Karanga Mai' – responding with calls of activism, celebration, inclusivity, representation and more.

After a searing premiere at the NZIFF 2020, the ground-breaking and critically acclaimed local web-series Rūrangi has had a silver screen edit, due to hit cinemas nationwide in February. Kicking the Festival off in style, The Rainbow Carpet Tour of Aotearoa launches as part of Auckland Pride 2021, with a glittering gala evening at Rialto Newmarket on Wednesday 3rd, hosted by ASB and RainbowYOUTH as a fundraiser to support the essential work of the charity. Created by and starring gender diverse talent, Rūrangi is a triumph of trans representation both on and behind our screens, following trans activist Caz who returns home to small town New Zealand to reconnect with his roots.

For the first time Auckland’s Vogue Scene are battling it out across the Festival Programme, with the House of AITU hosting the return of the Thirst Trap Ball at Ending HIV’s Big Gay Out in Coyle Park on Sunday 14th. Auckland Council’s Proud Centres Programme is headlined by the IMAN Ball, the first vogue ball to be hosted by the decorated House of IMAN, during the following weekend on Friday 19th. Finally, the return of the House of COVEN-CARANGI’s SUPREME Ball hosted on Friday 26th will light up the Atrium of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in the third Vogue Ball of the month. This Auckland Pride Festival Programme brings together the three houses before Auckland Arts Festival’s Legacy Ball in March.

An impressive array of theatre treads the boards as part of the 2021 Festival programme, including a hilarious line-up of comedies as part of the Summer at Q programme. Returning from the 2018 programme, the "cult classic in the making" [NZ Herald] Gays In Space gets an upgrade to Q’s main space Rangatira, featuring the full original cast (Chris Parker, Thomas Sainsbury, Blaise Clotworthy, Zak Enayat, and Daryl Wrightson) for a strictly limited two night season on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th. Up in Loft from Thursday 11th - Saturday 20th, the new show from Pride favourites Gawky Productions Let’s Get Loco! promises to be a laugh-out-loud romp, directed by award-winning comedian Eli Matthewson, inspired by gay icons Ricky Martin and Kylie Minogue. The Q season sees the return of former Pride Gala director Jason Te Mete, with his provocative, funny, and heartbreakingly moving dramatic play Over My Dead Body: UNINVITED. Playing from Wednesday 24th - Saturday 27th in Loft the production is delivered by a fully LGBTQi+ cast, creative team, and crew. Inspired by panels from the NZ Memorial AIDS Quilt Project that were stitched with love to honour those who lost their battle with the 'gay plague', this story is a tender and poignant reminder for those who were around in the 80's and a lesson for those who weren't.

Pride also returns to Basement’s Summer Programme, with founding member of the Coven Arts Collective Cypris Afakasi performing in their first solo show. HEtheyShe is a solo performance art, activation dance experience, that challenges the limitations of our tunnel visioned collective understanding of gender. Basement Artist in Residence Melody Rachel is also challenging the gender binary with I Wanna be Mark Wahlberg. This solo show seeks to understand the effects of her conservative Christian upbringing, where gender was presented to her as two very distinctly opposing things, and examines how these have carried forward into her experiences of identity.

Also returning for Auckland Pride 2021 are Night of the Queer and Carnies and Queers, showcasing the more acrobatic side of queer performance, made possible with funding from the Pride & Spark Empowerment Initiative. Since launching at TAPAC in 2015, Night of the Queer has become a highlight of the Festival programme, offering a platform for some of Auckland’s most talented queer performers and emerging artists. For 2021 the cult classic takes on a magickal twist, featuring dazzling dance, extraordinary aerial artistry, sassy song, bold burlesque, divine drag and a huge dose of comedy from Thursday 4th - Saturday 13th. Then for one night only of Saturday 13th, Very Good At Falling present their queer take on circus at the Dust Palace, performed by their eclectic assortment of rainbow artists and musicians, both established and emerging.

A total of 19 events in the first programme announcement have been funded through the collaboration between Auckland Pride and Spark, an initiative designed to remove barriers to participation by directly resourcing diverse event producers. Among the projects are the China Pride Festival, a festival-within-a-festival offering a full line-up of activities to coincide with Chinese New Year, including an Opening Gala, sports, markets, talks, films, and so much more! Also coinciding with Auckland’s Pride Month is Black History Month, both of which are being celebrated by Same Same but Black in ICON - an exhibition celebrating the black pioneers of the rainbow community. Part exhibition, part education, part conversation, part celebration, part agitation; ICON 2021 is an online photography exhibition, podcast series, social media outreach and live stream pop up event.

Also among the projects are Gowns, Beautiful Gowns, a showcase of 13 Auckland drag artists and their perception of gender, fashion and art; the world premiere of Not As Simple As It Sounds, an interactive art and music installation from international artist Ivan Lupi; Body Positive Inc’s Circle of Love, a free picnic and poi workshop for people living with HIV at the Circle of Friends memorial in Western Springs; the revitalisation of Queerlesque, the variety show of drag and burlesque that was a K’Rd institution from 2010-2014, with this edition featuring nine incredible artists; and a non-white performers night Code Switch by House of Drag’s Medulla Oblongata for an extraordinary world of colour.

2021 marks the third year of Auckland Council’s Proud Centres project, which sees their arts, community, and event venues transformed to create hubs of pride in neighbourhoods across Tāmaki Makaurau. With free venue hire for producers, the Proud Centres are hosting a series of mini-festivals in their community hubs in Central Auckland, Onehunga, Mt Albert, Te Atatū Peninsula, and Ponsonby. With live music, markets, performances, and films as the summer evenings stretch on, rainbow talent and creativity will be celebrated in every corner of the city.

These events act as a preview for the programme, which also include the already announced opening karakia Tuwheratanga, the Pride Gala headlined by ballroom superstars Coven and Iman, the samesame but different Writers Festival, the annual Ending HIV Big Gay Out, the Pride March taking over Central Auckland from Albert Park to Aotea Square, and the Pride Party headlined by Randa and halfqueen. Stay tuned for even more to come, with the full programme to be announced on January 11.

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