Mardi Gras Launch returns to the Sydney Opera House forecourt this Friday for the first time since the old Mardi Gras went bankrupt.

And contrary to previous announcements from New Mardi Gras, tickets will now be sold at the event.

They will be available from midday on the day -“ Friday 3 February -“ at the box office of the Australian Chamber Orchestra located within the Dendy Cinema foyer at Circular Quay.

However, people are still being encouraged to buy their $10 tickets in advance to avoid lengthy delays on the night.

If they don’t it will take ages to get in, a New Mardi Gras spokesperson said.

Marcus Bourget, New Mardi Gras chair, said Launch was expected to sell out and that an estimated 4,000 people would be attending.

Launch was successfully held in the Opera House forecourt for a number of years until Mardi Gras collapsed in 2002. The following three, more low-key New Mardi Gras launches were held in Hyde Park.

The decision to go back to the Opera House was made following community consultations.

Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore will appear at Launch to officially open the four-week festival. The identity of this year’s keynote speaker -“ who traditionally gives an inspirational speech -“ has been kept secret, though Bourget said the speaker had been a very great supporter of our community over the years.

The launch will be hosted by comedy duo Sister She, with entertainment also provided by singer Sarah McLeod, musician Andy Clockwise and DJ Sveta.

Tickets are available in advance from The Froot Store in Newtown, Gold’s Gym in Surry Hills, the New Mardi Gras office in Petersham and Sax Fetish in Darlinghurst.

This week the green light was given for HIV/AIDS charities The Luncheon Club and People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to conduct fundraising activities at the event.

PLWHA will do bucket collections while The Luncheon Club planned to raise revenue by selling cushions for punters to sit on.

There was controversy at last year’s Launch when New Mardi Gras tried to block PLWHA from collecting money, saying they needed to use the event to raise money for their own organisation. After a community outcry New Mardi Gras reversed its decision and the charity was allowed to collect.

There was also controversy last year when under-18s were not allowed into the launch due to the fact it was licensed. This year everyone will be allowed to enter and ID will be required at the bar. There will be no BYO.

Bourget said the bars would this year be run by the Opera House. Again there were problems last year with massive bar queues and serious financial losses due to poor bar sales.

The fact Launch lost money in 2004 and 2005 is the reason for the $10 entry fee this year.

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