Despite recent profits, New Mardi Gras is financially vulnerable and out of touch with parts of the community, and must take radical steps if it is to improve its outlook.
New Mardi Gras chair Marcus Bourget delivered this warning at the organisation’s annual general meeting last Saturday.
Bourget told the AGM Mardi Gras remained seat-of-the-pants stuff despite making $158,000 in the last financial year.
The organisation’s cash profit of about $91,000 represented a margin of just three percent.
A three percent margin is not sustainable. It presents huge and ongoing risk to the organisation, Bourget said.
If 900 people had decided not to come to the [Mardi Gras] party, or if it had rained at Fair Day, we might not be reporting any form of profit at all. It could have been bye bye Mardi Gras.
And to compound this problem, despite our best efforts we still do not have a cash reserve.
There is nothing squirrelled away for a rainy day. Mardi Gras remains seat-of-the-pants stuff.
Bourget laid some blame on under-performing Mardi Gras events, including Launch, Fair Day and a lazy annual arts festival, foreshadowing a major shake-up for next year’s season.
Launch and Fair Day continued to lose money and were at the mercy of the elements, while the uncurated umbrella arts festival was in many ways a lazy festival, lacking direction and overall purpose.
Bourget said Mardi Gras had to abandon poorly performing events, but stopped short of saying which, if any, might be axed in 2007.
We should not be afraid to make substantial changes to the season in order to reinvent a more modern and appealing festival. We need to improve the quality of what we do, he said.
Many of these decisions are not going to be popular. But in the long term it is often the deepest cut that is most effective.
After the AGM, Bourget told Sydney Star Observer Sleaze and the flagship Mardi Gras parade and party would remain on the calendar.
The incoming board will discuss possible changes to the season in coming weeks.
We will have other events. What they look like, what we do, may be very different, Bourget said.
As it approaches the 30th anniversary of the first parade, New Mardi Gras must also deal with slipping interest from some sections of the community.
The last Sleaze and Mardi Gras parties fell below sales expectations, membership numbers were dropping and a recent call for volunteers attracted only two responses.
This is not good enough if we are to continue to grow, Bourget told the AGM.
We have to clearly articulate a direction and vision for Mardi Gras which excites and engages people.
Bourget said New Mardi Gras could become financially sustainable by diversifying its income and exploring new partnerships with business and government.
It could increase community relevance by restructuring the season and improving the quality of events.
But Bourget told the AGM New Mardi Gras was doing some things well, including lifting production standards in the parade.
I guess the message is -˜we’re getting there, but there is a long way to go’.
Also at the AGM, New Mardi Gras treasurer Michael Douglas said the organisation had about $110,000 more cash in the bank at the moment than at the same time last year.
Presenting the annual financial report, Douglas said New Mardi Gras spent about $280,000 on staff in 2005-2006, a little more than $100,000 on marketing and almost $200,000 on insurance.
While New Mardi Gras had improved its finances significantly since the previous year’s major loss, it still needed to find something different that will allow us to survive for [another] 30 years, Douglas said.
No board election was held last Saturday because eight candidates nominated for eight vacancies. The new board was due to meet for the first time last night, with Marcus Bourget expected to remain chair.