Punters were treated to a ‘very Melbourne’ launch of the city’s largest queer arts and cultural festival Midsumma yesterday.

The caffeine-fuelled event was held in warehouse space Thousand Pound Bend, nestled among Melbourne’s laneways, and unveiled a diverse 2012 festival program with a particular emphasis on visual arts.

Speaking at the launch, Midsumma chair Lisa Watts said the festival has become a unique and important part of the Melbourne arts calendar.

“There’s a growing sense of excitement building within the community about Midsumma,” Watts said.

“It’s a chance for us to celebrate living in one of the greatest cities in the world.

“Midsumma and the way it celebrates diversity makes our society stronger.”

Flagship events Carnival Day and T-Dance will remain the focus of the festival.

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Watts flagged little change to the festival’s format, joking there would be no repeat of the issues plaguing its northern counterpart, Sydney Mardi Gras, which has dropped the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ from the festival title.

Speaking at the launch were Telstra Enterprise group managing director Paul Geason and IBM general manager sales Mark Latchford, who both pledged support for the LGBTI festival.

Melbourne City Council Cr Jennifer Kanis welcomed the new festival program and said Midsumma’s council funding was secure for another three years.

Hobsons Bay Deputy Mayor and intersex campaigner Tony Briffa, who looks a shoo-in to win the mayoralty of the municipality next month, said, if elected, he would march in the annual Victorian Pride March wearing mayoral robes.

Performances from choreographer Paul Malek’s local dance troupe and cabaret act Spontaneous Broadway marked the start of festivities.

A range of events will be staged across Melbourne during the three-week festival, including live performances, visual arts, film, spoken word, sporting and social events.

INFO: Midsumma runs January 15 – February 5. www.midsumma.org.au