More detail about the financial crisis facing Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras surfaced at last Saturday’s members meeting at the organisation’s Ers-kineville workshop.

In her opening address, president Julie Regan told members that the loss for the 2001/2002 financial year was $538,533, but stressed that at no point in time have we been trading insolvent.

However, Regan was shortly afterwards forced to admit that the organisation was not currently in a position to meet all of its staff entitlements, after a question to that effect was asked by Sydney 2002 co-chair Bev Lange.

Regan said that the amount the association owed to creditors was $436,000, and that payment plans were in place for the two largest creditors, the Australian Taxation Office and AM&P printing. Four other creditors were each owed in excess of $20,000, she said.

The response to the Mardi Gras Ensurance Policy donation appeal was encouraging, Regan said, with $20,000 promised to date.

Treasurer Patrick Healy discussed a draft two-year budget which he said would see the association breaking even this (financial) year and moving in to profit next year.

After Regan admitted that the 2002 festival highlight show Resident Alien had lost $37,000, Healy said the budget for next year’s Mardi Gras festival would be slashed from $600,000 to $50,000. That budget would accommodate two minor literary events, two small music events and maybe some public art, Healy said. He also said that the board had held some discussions about turning the annual Fair Day into more of a money-generating event through the provision of an end-of-day bar and dancing tent.

The Harbour Party (to be re-branded Botanica and brought under Mardi Gras’ control for 2003) also presented money-generating opportunities, while the Pool Party was budgeted for a break-even next year, Healy said. Budgeting for the October Sleaze Ball is also being kept deliberately conservative, with a cap of 8,000 tickets.

In response to a question from Queer Screen president Pip Newling, Regan said no provision had yet been made in Mardi Gras’ budget for that organisation.

The slump in Mardi Gras’ audiences may continue for some time yet, with the further revelation (by chief executive officer Kelly Gardiner) that membership renewals for the association are 10 percent down on what they were at this time last year. The association currently had approximately 6,100 members, Gardiner said.

Another meeting of Mardi Gras members has been scheduled for this Saturday, starting at noon in the Erskineville workshop (21-23 Erskineville Road). In a statement released yesterday, Mardi Gras board members implored members to share your views and help build a stronger, more focused Mardi Gras.

The objective of this meeting is to look at the strategies used by Mardi Gras to engage its members and the community, and to discuss which of these strategies are effective and how to further develop them. Also the meeting aims to explore the needs of the community in relation to Mardi Gras. Other community groups and organisations have also been invited to share their experiences, the board said in their statement.

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