The board of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras will embark on an ambitious two-pronged campaign to save the organisation. A strategy to recoup the half-million-dollar debt has been proposed, while a community meeting aimed at discussing Mardi Gras’ future has been scheduled for 24 August.
As Sydney Star Observer went to press last night, the Mardi Gras board was pre-paring to hear from administrators Sims Lockwood on the fate of this year’s Sleaze Ball party [see seperate story].
Mardi Gras president Julie Regan said the aim of the 24 August meeting (at the Seymour Centre’s Everest Theatre, starting at 2pm) was to develop a plan as a community, based on what we want for Mardi Gras and to help the community put all considerations and community ideas on the table.
Pride will co-host the meeting. It is understood that Mardi Gras will approach, or has already approached, other organisations including People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), ACON, Queer Screen and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation to act as co-hosts.
Pride co-president Lou-Anne Lind said Pride was looking to other organisations to get involved in the hosting of the meeting so that we can gauge the bigger picture of what Mardi Gras’ current situation means for the community.
ACON president Adrian Lovney confirmed that while ACON would not be playing a co-hosting role, they would be actively involved in any plans arising to stabilise Mardi Gras.
I’ve got a strong view that any model around the re-invention of Mardi Gras needs to be a consensus-driven model and needs to have the support from right across the community, he said.
Former Mardi Gras president Richard Cobden, who first came forward in the media with a call to have a community meeting to salvage Mardi Gras, told the Star that the planned forum was the type of meeting [he had] hoped for.
We need to look at a few critical questions: what does this community think of the prospect of full or partial commercial ownership of Mardi Gras, and what does this community think about the notion that has been expressed that, no matter what, Mardi Gras has to go ahead as a parade on the first Saturday in March? Cobden said.
While preparations for the meeting continue, the Star understands that Mardi Gras is planning a grassroots fundraising campaign aimed at raising $500,000 within two weeks, via a targeted telephone appeal.
Under the proposal, Mardi Gras organisers hope to gain $1,000 donations from 500 individual donors. The campaign is pegged to be launched on 21 August generating $50,000 a day, before winding up on 3 September.
Regan was reluctant to confirm details of the telephone appeal yesterday, but told the Star, There is a fundraiser being put in place and we’re having discussions this week about the possibilities we have in that regard.
However, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association (SGLBA) president Vicki Brackenreg told the Star that SGLBA had been approached by Mardi Gras to auspice a bank account for the phone appeal. Brackenreg said SGLBA would not announce a decision on the matter until after their board meeting next Tuesday night.
The appeal comes at a crucial stage for Mardi Gras. Administrators warned Mardi Gras creditors at a meeting last Friday that if sufficient funding to save the organisation could not be secured, it was likely that the business would be offered for sale.
There are already strong indications that there would be many interested parties and that a sale would be hotly contested. It is not possible to guarantee that in the event of a sale the events will remain community-based, the administrators said in a written report.
The Sims Lockwood offices have been swamped with commercial expressions of interest in a Mardi Gras buy-out, but administrator Alan Topp told last Friday’s meeting that working with the current board was still plan A.
Topp said that outside offers would only be entertained should these negotiations falter.
SSOnet User’s comments:
Perhaps some former board members and senior management from the defunct Satellite Media could contribute to the phone appeal to save Mardi Gras? I’m sure some of them could afford more than $1,000 and wouldn’t mind paying up because they are so community minded. After all, their empathy radars must be going off, especially for the poor Mardi Gras staff who lost their jobs.