Sydney Gay Lesbian Mardi Gras turns 30 this year. The first event in 1978 was banned, and many of the participants were arrested.

Their names were published in the local paper, and many lost their jobs. Homosexuality was not decriminalised in New South Wales until 1982.

Today it is the largest cultural event in Australia, known throughout the world as the gayest street party of them all.

This year’s proceedings kick off on Saturday 9th February with a commemorative tree planting ceremony in Centennial Park and will culminate in the world famous-parade along Oxford St on Saturday 1st March.

The three week arts, sports and cultural festival will see a wealth of international and national performers and visitors in 2008.

Singer Cyndi Lauper, and stand up comic Margaret Cho are just some of the talent heading to Sydney.

A controversial play that depicts Jesus being seduced by Judas and conducting a gay marriage for two apostles features in the festival.

The ever-popular Fair Day returns on Sunday 17th February and attracts more than 60,000 people each year.

The ‘big gay picnic day in the park’ is known for its relaxed atmosphere, live entertainment and food and shopping stalls.

To conclude the three week festival, the spectacular Mardi Gras Parade, which regularly attracts 300,000 spectators to see its stunning costumes and floats, will wind its way along iconic Oxford Street.

The Parade comes to a halt at Moore Park where the official Mardi Gras Party will be held at the Royal Hall of Industries.

Mardi Gras is a major contributor to Sydney’s reputation as a global city, and brings thousands of international and interstate visitors who inject more than $46 million (£20.5m) to the New South Wales economy.