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Big bold Pride Gala kicks off

JESS LEE
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2014
Pride
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX MEDIA

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

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

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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 tonight's events.

It is going to be a wicked show, Lexie says.

This will be the Ellerslie resident'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 renowned performer Mika, the 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.

"So being around when we were having to fight for everything, 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 are 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 out," Lexie says.

The festival runs until February 23. Go to auckland pridefestival.org for details.

HIGHLIGHTS

Auckland Pride Gala Friday from 8pm Q theatre

Big Gay Out – FREE Sunday noon to 7pm Coyle Park, Pt Chevalier

Auckland Pride Parade – FREE February 22, from 7pm Ponsonby Rd

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