Brisbane Festival certainly opened with a bang this year, with a number of major events taking place across the city on the official first day—including the celebration of Pride, Qweens on King. As an official opening event, Qweens on King had opening speeches, a range of musicians, boylesque, drag and comic performers. But at its heart was the first mass wedding of LGBTIQ couples—and when it came to exchanging their vows, the event was transformed.
Michelle Diconski’s powerful book, Ghost Wife (published in 2013), weaves Dicinoski’s own story—of travelling to Canada to marry, when marriage to the love of her life was not yet possible in Australia—with that of the many couples whose stories had previously remained hidden. Following the 2017 vote in Australia, and change in legislation, the sixteen participants in the 8th September celebration were able to exchange their vows ‘at home,’ in front of their family, friends, and members of the local community.
Andrea Kirwin was a fantastic choice as the opening act, with a selection of soulful, and highly-appropriate pieces which demonstrated the versatility and range of this wonderful singer. I particularly enjoyed ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ and will certainly be off to buy an album to hear more of Kirwin’s own music. It’s a pity that the heavens opened as Kirwin began her set, leading many of the audience to dash for cover and conversation, rather than listen to the performance.
Hosts, the "Prince of Polyester," comedian Bob Downe (Mark Trevorrow), and the glamorous, witty and ever-sassy ring-bearer, Shivannah (Fez Fa’anana), set an upbeat tone—introducing the opening speakers, and welcoming Katie Noonan and the celebrant (Gai Lemon) to the stage. They were also joined by a wonderful Auslan signer (also pictured, above... Pictures credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography). But it was always going to be members of the wedding parties who stole this ‘show.’
Congratulations to each of the eight couples who invited us to your wedding. Carrying umbrellas, you entered the stage through a crowd of well-wishers, friend and family members (serenaded by Katie Noonan, who greatly improved on Kermit the Frogs’ performance of The Rainbow Connection). But when it came to exchanging your vows, the umbrellas were all down, the rain had stopped, and we were all too busy listening to your special words to look up into the sky to spot rainbows. We joined with members of your family who shed the occasional tear of joy (see pictures, below. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography), applauded your highly-personal vows and pledges, and wish you and your families every future happiness together.
Verdict: You can’t have rainbows without a little rain…
Audience tip: Look out for future opportunities to hear Andrea Kirwin, and make sure you put King Street on your list as a place for a pre-Tivoli meal, or just a great place to meet up with friends.
Held on the opening day of Brisbane Festival 2018, the free event was also the official opening for Brisbane’s 27th Pride (which also runs during September. For more information about other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website or Facebook page.
Catherine Lawrence, perspectives
The reviewer attended the Saturday 8th September 2018 celebration.