The second PICNIC event was held in March to coincide with Mardi Gras, and not even a COVID pandemic could dampen its success.

PICNIC began in 2020 in Ward Park, with businesses and entertainers providing a day out for the local community.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions PICNIC adapted, becoming an in-venue event. 18 participating Local Rewards venues were promoted through Head to Surry Hills and Local Rewards and were paired with performers to help celebrate Mardi Gras.

Promotional menus were offered, adding to the atmosphere as the Surry Hills Drag Queen group the Devonshire Divas visited venues.

PICNIC is an initiative of the Surry Hills Business Partnership as part of the Head to Surry Hills campaign. PICNIC is an official Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras event and is supported by the City of Sydney.

Surry Hills Business Partnership President Leigh Harris says: “PICNIC is a great event as it allows businesses and community to support and connect with each other, which is even more important during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Many participating venues sold PICNIC rugs, with proceeds donated to the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre. The SHNC provides a space for residents to connect with their community, access support, learn new skills or give back to the community.

SHNC Community and Development Worker Stephen Lunny says: “I think it’s a really vital partnership between the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre and the Surry Hills Business Partnership. Being an NGO that is there for the whole community, our local businesses are a really important part of the community… I think it adds a dynamic layer to Surry Hills.”

“I know we’ll use that money to continue to run our Do Drop-in Day which is every Friday at 10:30-2.”

The Do Drop-in Day started as the SHNC’s response to the COVID-19 shutdown. Seeing a rise in mental health issues and social isolation and with nowhere for many affected to turn, the neighbourhood centre created a Covid safe way to be open and support the community on a regular basis.

The Do Drop-in Day offers café style breakfast and lunch items, as well as $5 haircuts once a month. There is also a computer support service and creative table for arts and crafts.

Both the Surry Hills Business Partnership and Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre look forward to continuing the PICNIC tradition next year.

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