A potentially embarrassing non-event at the start of the New Mardi Gras festival has been avoided with a last-minute approval for tomorrow night’s Mardi Gras festival launch.

New Mardi Gras was still in negotiations with the City of Sydney as late as Tuesday this week, before Council agreed to waive hire costs of Hyde Park North for the night.

One of the reasons it’s taken so long [to announce the launch] is we had to make sure we had the budget to put a decent launch on, New Mardi Gras co-chair Michael Woodhouse said.

Despite the late notice, New Mardi Gras has managed to secure a solid line-up of festival performers and speakers, including host Bruce Meagher, Trevor Ashley, star of the much-hyped Trevor Ashley: Pop Princess, and up-and-coming pop-star Hayley Aitken.

Sydney DJ Richard Weiss has donated his behind-the-deck talents and will perform from 6pm.

While the launch was always a high priority for New Mardi Gras, Woodhouse said the organisation was ever conscious of their financial responsibilities in the wake of last year’s Mardi Gras collapse.

We’ve always wanted to do a launch. It’s always been one of the four events that we wanted to do [along with the parade, party and fair day], but it was probably always the fourth. And we’ve been quite pragmatic about ensuring that we are an organisation that can pay our bills and remain solvent throughout the festival, he said.

Strong Mardi Gras party ticket sales had played a part in ensuring the launch would go ahead, Woodhouse told the Star.

It’s surprisingly good, he said.

They’ve picked up really well in the past week, and if they continue to sell like this we’ll be in a position where we can open up more spaces and offer more at the party. We’re definitely better off than we thought we’d be.

Party co-chair Jock McKeon said international sales had also been higher than expected, with tickets selling in 36 different countries. It wasn’t until a week before the party last year that sales were at this level, he said.

McKeon has also announced the names of six first-time Mardi Gras DJs selected to perform at the party in the outdoor Grand Pagoda. The winners were selected at a spin-off fundraiser at the Stonewall Hotel last week.

Winners were Dr Jane, Sista P, DJ Tas, Henri (Melbourne), DJ Kenny (Birmingham, UK) and Karl Moser from New Zealand.

Among the fundraisers planned to help New Mardi Gras deliver the festival on-time and on-budget is one featuring Sandra Nori, minister for Tourism and minister for Women.

Nori was one of the protestors outside the Darlinghurst Police Station at the first Mardi Gras in 1978.

Nori will speak at a fundraising evening on Monday 10 February at Parliament House from 6pm to 8:30pm. Tickets are $45 including drinks and finger food and a $35 donation to New Mardi Gras. Tickets can be booked by calling Patricia on 8354 1080 or Anthony on 9206 2107.

Ms Nori was one of the many people protesting outside the Darlinghurst Police Station following the arrests in the first Mardi Gras parade of 1978. Here we are 25 years later with Sandra Nori, the NSW minister for Tourism, and the parade is now Australia’s largest annual tourism event, New Mardi Gras co-chair Stevie Clayton said.


The Mardi Gras launch will be held in Hyde Park North tomorrow, Friday 7 February, from 6pm to 9:30pm.

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