I’m just back from Fair Day and it was pure adrenaline to see tens of thousands of our community having a great time.
Fair Day often marks the point when the news and commentary agenda moves from criticisms of decisions NMG has made in preparing for the season to the exciting stuff that’s happening.
What’s surprising is how few stories crop up given the huge variety of decisions NMG makes each year. There were really only two stories in the last couple of weeks I believe really touched on issues of principle: our rejection of Animal Liberation’s parade entry and the exclusion of a Tourism Tasmania brochure from Fair Day.
In both cases I believe NMG made the right decision and acted wholly in line with our Constitution and the objectives New Mardi Gras was set up to achieve.
With more people applying to participate in our parade than we can safely accommodate we looked harder at entry guidelines than ever before. These reflect our Constitution and our history as a gay pride organisation.
Animal Liberation have been in the parade many times, may have some gay members, but is patently not a GLBT organisation, provided no record of support for the GLBT community outside marching in the parade and had an entry with no emphasis on gay pride. That they reissued an application with ‘queer’ in the title didn’t change our view.
If you believe Mardi Gras should be a vehicle for progressive political bodies or just anyone with a message to get out there then you’d include Animal Liberation’s message about cruelty to battery chickens, however, that is not what New Mardi Gras was set up to do.
Our parade entry criteria broadly reflect our Constitution which is essentially about GLBT pride and celebration.
We have four sponsor entries out of around 140 entries this year. Without the financial contribution of sponsors, there would be no parade or Fair Day today.
The nature of the sponsorship is that it generally — though not always — offers a degree of exclusivity. We have an agreement in place with Events NSW that gives them exclusivity vis-a-vis other state tourism bodies.
It was sensationalist to claim Mardi Gras was in the business of banning books by excluding a Tourism Tasmania stall and their brochures from Fair Day. Tourism Tasmania have other options to get their message out and accept our position.
What all this debate has suggested to me is that there is a discrepancy between some people’s view of what Mardi Gras should be about and the reality of our Constitution and business model.
Rather than muddle through, let’s debate what Mardi Gras, and particularly the parade is about. Let’s look at its purpose, composition and funding and work towards a clear statement (or restatement) of our objectives and values. By doing this, we’d go a long way to ensuring Mardi Gras’ relevance into the future.
Once this season is over I will work with our board to set out a process of consultation and debate on these topics which I hope will engage a broad section of our community with the aim ultimately of putting that vision forward to our members for approval.
— Michael Rolik, CEO, NMG
I would like to add my voice to the growing chorus of frustration aimed at the New Mardi Gras committee.
When I read ‘Ross Watson Celebrates Our Heroes’ (SSO 1008), I was shocked such an impressive artist with such a relevant theme was left off the program.
What are they thinking? Michael Kirby and Matthew Mitcham have made an indelible mark in Australian history books, as heroes not only of the queer community, but as champions of Australia. And Watson’s portraits of these heroes are making history, with the painting of Mitcham having been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
How the NMG committee did not see that Watson’s exhibition absolutely epitomises the theme of ‘History’, is beyond me.
Further, many of the exhibitions which the NMG committee did choose have nothing to do with history, and are arguably far from the high professional standard of Ross Watson’s art.
With the kerfuffles they’ve had this year, if they’re not careful the NMG committee will themselves be history.
Have the people who tried to enter the ‘Animal Liberation Cruelty to Chickens’ float considered their float is boring? BORING! That’s maybe why you weren’t accepted in this year’s parade.
Help save the chickens, yes, but who wants to see another boring, flatbed truck with a balloon stuck on it, trying to pass as a glittering parade entry?
Praise the Lord New Mardi Gras is having standards and making the parade fun, enjoyable and bright for the people who will be watching.
(Oh, and for those entering the parade, make sure you have your tops off.)
What an absolute cop-out!
Shame on NMG for excluding Animal Liberation from marching in this year’s parade on such a pathetic and baseless excuse. Even a cursory look at the other parade entrants would demonstrate that the excuse expounded by NMG has not been applied consistently.
Sure, ANZ has a lot of GLBT employees, however, it’s obvious that having a large bank in the parade with very deep pockets will aid NMG’s battered image, not to mention their ailing balance sheet, more so than having a grassroots community float.
NMG — hang your head in shame and remember the real reason for Mardi Gras. Animal Liberation — I strongly urge you to re-apply for next year and know that you have a lot of community support in the GLBT community.
NOT SO FAIR
Fair Day was not worth the bus fare… and that was free!
Bicycle racks are provided for free because of the benefits of cycling to the public health, including reducing obesity, and reducing greenhouse gas.
The decision by New Mardi Gras to charge for bicycle parking at Fair Day reveals that it is more interested in revenue-raising than the public good.
— norrie mAy-welby