Pride Gala kicks off

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

Bold acts, big names and bears.

The Auck­land Pride Fes­ti­val is back and is kick­ing things off with a cabaret-themed open­ing gala at the Q the­atre tonight.

Award-win­ning di­rec­tor, writer and ac­tor Lexie Mathe­son is run­ning the fes­ti­val’s open­ing show at Q the­atre this year with Ali­son Mau host­ing the night’s events. It will be a wicked show, Lexie says.

This will be the Eller­slie

resi- dent’s first time di­rect­ing the gala, which pre­views the best bits the fes­ti­val has to of­fer.

It did not take much arm-twist­ing to con­vince her to take up the reins af­ter the orig­i­nal di­rec­tor had to drop out, she says.

‘‘It’s a real labour of love be­cause the groups are fab­u­lous to work with. They’re a great bunch.

‘‘I’ve been look­ing for things which are a lit­tle bit out of the box.’’

The lineup in­cludes per­former Mika, bur­lesque troupe In Fla­grante and cir­cus-the­atre com­pany The Dust Palace.

Lexie says at­ti­tudes have changed since she was in­volved with the Hero Pa­rade and Fes­ti­val be­fore it ended in 2001.

‘‘The whole vibe of the city has changed over the years. The queer com­mu­nity now, we’re just part of the wood­work,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s re­ally nice now to see we’re not seen as the enemy and we can go out and get spon­sor­ship and sup­port.’’

Hav­ing a greater fo­cus on youth in this year’s fes­ti­val is another im­por­tant step for­ward, Lexie says.

Rain­bow Youth is hold­ing free pic­nics dur­ing the fes­ti­val and will march in this year’s Pride Pa­rade along Pon­sonby Rd on Fe­bru­ary 22.

The US Em­bassy has also teamed up with the fes­ti­val trust to host the in­au­gu­ral NXT:14 Youth Lead­ers Con­fer­ence at Unitec’s Mt Al­bert cam­pus this weekend.

‘‘It’s im­por­tant for them to be vis­i­ble so the pa­rade takes on a new di­men­sion – I think kids are still cau­tious about com­ing says.

out,’’ Lexie

Strong fam­ily: Lexie Mathe­son, right, with spouse Cushla and son Finn, is di­rect­ing this year’s Auck­land Pride Gala tonight.

Photo: LAWRENCE SMITH

Pride pa­rade: The Auck­land Pride Pa­rade re­turns to Pon­sonby Rd at the later start time of 7pm on Fe­bru­ary 22.

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