Centrestage Goes To Mardi Gras '20!
Taking costume business to Sydney – by Jimmy
Well we're finally back from Mardi Gras. I don't think I can accurately put into words how incredible, amazing and insane this weekend was.
In early 2019 we were commissioned by the Melbourne Marching Girls to create costumes and help design their float for the 2020 Sydney Mardi Gras. We discussed and workshopped and finally came up with what we all thought was a great style and look. Mary worked tirelessly, sewing, gluing and producing all 25 of the girls costumes. Then, at the end of Febuary we set off for Sydney!
We started off the trip pretty well, winning Pub trivia in Goulburn on the first night of the drive up. Scoring a bottle of wine and a couple of beers to enjoy.
We finally arrived in Sydney mid-afternoon Friday and settled in quite comfortably into our 67th floor suite in the Meriton Hotel and met some old friends and new. Honestly this place was mind blowing. I think it's probably ruined all the other hotels I'll ever stay in for the rest of my life.
That night we all went to a local pub for a crew meeting that turned into a bit of an impromptu birthday party. I spent my birthday night with people who hardly knew me, but I felt loved and respected by all of them and I wouldn't of had it any other way <3
Saturday morning, Parade Day. Driving down to strategically park the car with the 6 bottles of champagne in it near to the end of the parade route for the celebrations afterwards and then coming back to the hotel to relax and soak in their amazing pool and spa on the 61st floor looking right over Sydney Harbour.
Then everything kicked off.
At 3pm we were all hustled into the marshalling area to find our float and start setting up along with the other 195 floats and the 12,500 people marching with them in the parade.
Everyone looked amazing, glitter covered everything. There were jellyfish people, people wearing wings the size of me, there were people wearing not much at all.
The amount of creativity and work that must go into all these costumes boggled my mind.
It reminded me of Rainbow Serpent or Burning man. But so much bigger and so much more fabulous!
We found the truck and our amazing tech crew already setting up the scaffolding, the lights, speakers and generators and we settled in to dressing the float and building the amazing Top Hats to sit at the front and back of it. My incredible mother and costume master Mary and I climbed up onto the back of the truck and started to unfurl the makings of the giant Top Hat, pinning it together and draping in with the tight fitting luminous white and silver fabric that would see it through the parade. Then Mary set about the agonisingly slow process of hand sewing together the top of the hat to its brim with just a needle and thread! For 2 straight hours she stood on the back of that truck, on a obliquely angled stage carefully making holes and threading needle and thread with gumption! She commented later that she has done this sort of work many times before, but never so publicly, a meter and a half off the ground, surrounded by thumping music, and thousands of fabulous passers-by all wondering what it was this grey-haired old lady was making. Eventually, to thunderous applause, the final hole was poked and the last stitch tied and after a few additions of goggles, cogs and decorations the hats were complete!
Getting the girls together and their costumes on was the easy part. Add a feather to a hat here, put some rainbow make up and glitter on there. Final last-minute alterations if a skirt isn't sitting right. The next hour or two became just a blur of coloured light, music, glitter and costumes. Then as 10pm and our start time rolled around and the other floats near us started moving out, the girls all got together for last minute briefings and a final practice in the middle of the road now we had some more space.
Then we turned the lights on..
It was an incredible and immediate effect. All of a sudden, these ladies who up until now had been looking fairly happy and excited started to glow! The change was instant. They lit up, their faces lit up, the entire marshalling area lit up! You could see it in all their faces the change it made. One minute they were just girls in white sequined vest with top hats and hooped skirts. The next they were dazzling beacons shining out into the night!! Everyone in the near area flocked to check them out, snap photos and admire the amazing glowing costumes. And they weren't even marching yet!
Finally, the marshals waived us into the parade proper – we were away!
It was electric!
You could certainly feel the more than a quarter of a million people cheering us on. Mum and I were tasked with watching for electric faults in the costumes (the illuminated canes, top hats and hoop petticoats). In the meantime, we walked with them, cheered them and felt so proud at how fantastic they and the truck float looked.
It was all over quickly – could have been 20 minutes or 2 hours – time stopped on that trip up the famous Oxford Street, Sydney.
Just before the end of the parade my other big task loomed. A task most agreed was one of the most important – running 700 meters to the well secured ice-drenched bottles of champagne and back for everyone to celebrate the end of the march. By the end of it I was exhausted, drenched and about ready to collapse on my feet. I dumped the excess ice all over myself.
Mission accomplished! 30 or so people, exhilarated, exhausted but all on a high cheered & enjoyed a paper cup of champagne – it never tasted so good!
That kind of excitement and exhilaration is totally addictive – I’ll be back!