We’re getting VERY excited for the Mardi Gras parade that will be taking over Sydney this weekend, and while it’s a great excuse to party, there’s a rich history to the event that people should know more about.

Each and every year, the Mardi Gras parade gets bigger and better and more people get involved, but tonight we wanted to pay homage to a time where it wasn’t just as fun and flamboyant as it is today.

Gary Schliemann joined us on tonight’s show. Gary was involved in the first ever mardi gras in 1978, and he took us through what it was like at the very first walk.

The plan was to involve a whole lot more people who weren’t very aware of a need for social change, and so we walked down oxford street from taylor square down to hyde park chanting things like “Out of the bars, into the streets”. In those days, there were a lot of bashings and people only felt safe in the bars that were paying off the cops to leave them alone. We hadn’t achieved law reform so it was still possible to be prosecuted for being gay. We were kind of challenging the police corruption, there were ongoing payoffs and inflated prices. We had quite a few people join us as we marched down.

The police weren’t too happy about the first walk, and local police station at the time was known for it’s corruption. When the first group arrived at hyde park, there was a little truck and a music machine, which was confiscated while police tried to arrest the driver.

There was a tug of war with him between the gang of lesbians and the cops. Guess who won?

After all of these years, we asked Gary how he feels about how the Mardi Gras has progressed and grown.

It’s pretty wonderful, I really love seeing the community groups. and that gets a bit difficult, there’s a bit of a squeeze on with it becoming so popular and a bit commercial. There are good aspects to that, as long as we can keep the balance a little bit.

The 78’ers – There are still quite a few of us around. We’ll try and exert a bit of friendly pressure as much as we can to keep it a community based event.

Hear our full chat with Gary below, and find out more about the 78’ers here.