Signature New Mardi Gras events Launch and Fair Day appear likely to be held at a single venue on the same weekend next year, as the organisation seeks to stem serious financial losses.
Most of the candidates for the next New Mardi Gras board, to be elected at the annual general meeting this Saturday, have indicated their support for the new-look Launch and Fair Day schedule, seen as a way to reduce infrastructure costs.
But one board candidate has warned the plan, which has already been investigated by the current New Mardi Gras board, could increase the company’s financial risk.
In response to questions from Sydney Star Observer, nine of the 11 New Mardi Gras board candidates indicated their support for Launch and Fair Day being held on the same weekend.
Three candidates, all of whom are current board members, suggested Launch could occur on a Friday evening and Fair Day the following Sunday, both at the same venue.
One of those candidates, current New Mardi Gras co-chair Steph Sands, said: I think a proposal needs to be developed that retains the integrity of [Launch and Fair Day], but utilises cost-saving measures through resource sharing.
This could mean having Launch in the same venue, using the same infrastructure as Fair Day, on the Friday night, before Fair Day on the Sunday.
Another candidate and current board member, Marcus Bourget, said: I would like to see the events kept separate. However, what I think [is] more likely to happen is that Launch and Fair Day will occur over the same weekend at Victoria Park, rather than on the same day.
The current board has already been investigating this possibility and I would continue to support such a move.
However, the majority’s enthusiasm for a single-venue Launch and Fair Day came as another board candidate warned the plan could compound New Mardi Gras’ financial woes.
Chris Murray, co-chair of this year’s New Mardi Gras festival working group, said a same-weekend schedule for Launch and Fair Day in 2006 seemed necessary due to cash flow and venue issues. But its adoption as a long-term plan could increase risk.
In the longer term it is possible for both events to make a profit -¦ and combining events actually increases rather than reduces the risk -“ one wet weekend means both events are rained out, Murray said.
This year, New Mardi Gras failed to meet bar sales targets at Fair Day after the event was washed out. It later said poor Fair Day bar sales were a contributor to the company’s loss of $304,000 this season.
In their responses to the Star‘s questions, board candidates proposed answers to these financial difficulties -“ with some current board members raising questions about past fiscal policy and the New Mardi Gras business model.
Aside from the rain-effect on Fair Day, our losses were due to human error. I will insist on full financial information coming to the board so that these mistakes are not repeated, current board member Dianne Minnis said.
Steph Sands said: It is also essential that our fundamental business model is reassessed to ensure that the organisation is, in fact, feasible.
Among other potential strategies outlined by candidates, who will be vying for eight board spots on Saturday, are closer partnerships with community businesses and income diversification.
But an abbreviated New Mardi Gras festival -“ flagged as a possible cost-saver -“ seems unlikely. Only two board candidates expressed clear support for the move.
The sale to a corporate sponsor of the New Mardi Gras parade naming rights, another potential revenue raiser, is also seemingly off the agenda, with most candidates emphatically rejecting the proposal.
New Mardi Gras’ annual general meeting, to be chaired by former Pride co-president Lou-Anne Lind, is on Saturday 25 June, 11am at @Newtown, 52 Enmore Rd, Newtown.