New Mardi Gras is seeking community input on new dates and venues for the 2003 Sleaze Ball after a rival booking for the Fox Studios site was accepted for the October long weekend.

Michael Woodhouse, New Mardi Gras (NMG) co-chair, told Sydney Star Observer that the organisation contacted Fox Studio licensees Playbill Management in late February 2003 to secure Sleaze for the October long weekend.

But Peter Walsh, promoter of the music festival Livid, told the Star he booked the Fox Studios site for the October long weekend in October last year. Playbill gave him no indication that the weekend was traditionally allocated to Mardi Gras, he said.

Woodhouse said he was  very disappointed to learn of the double booking three or four weeks ago, and New Mardi Gras had expected that the traditional booking for the Sleaze weekend would have been respected.

But Playbill general manager Andrew McCarney said they were under no legal obligation to reserve the dates for Mardi Gras.

Former CEO of Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) Kelly Gardiner told the Star that pencilled-in bookings made prior to the organisation’s folding went as far ahead as 2003. At the time Livid made their initial booking in October 2002, SGLMG was in administration and NMG were in an early formative stage, with no board, office or constitution.

Obviously I’m aware that that has historically been the Sleaze weekend, McCarney said. And I’m also aware that New Mardi Gras were talking about reinventing the parties and doing things a bit differently, etcetera -¦ [but] from my perspective there was a business decision to be made -¦

Prior to the actual Mardi Gras event happening, there weren’t too many betting people out there to say yeah, this is going to be a fantastic, successful party and we know we’re gonna have enough money in the bank to bankroll another party, he said.

McCarney stressed that offers had already been made to NMG about alternative weekends to hold the Sleaze party. NMG confirmed it has secured the Fox site for the 2004 Mardi Gras dance party.

[What] it comes down to is -¦ we have two clients who have a requirement for the same dates and basically we went back to our normal policy and procedure, of whoever commits first, gets the dates, McCarney said.

A discrepancy exists, however, as to whether or not NMG had provided such a commitment before the timeslot was taken by Livid. According to Woodhouse, NMG had booked the space in late February, although McCarney claims NMG were unable to confirm the booking pending the financial success of the 2002 Mardi Gras dance party.

Booking quibbles aside, Bligh MP Clover Moore told the Star the failure by Fox to honour the booking to New Mardi Gras was a betrayal of commitments made in 1995 when the public showgrounds were taken over by Fox Studios.

It was a real win, but the fact down the track that they’re now saying it’s unavailable I think is really a sell-out. And I think the community will think that it’s a sell-out.

Moore added that she would pursue the matter with Fox Studios management and the state government.

I think it’s a pity New Mardi Gras have gone along with it, frankly. I think the community will be disappointed, she said.

An invitation for community members to give their feedback about alternative Sleaze Ball venues and dates went up on the Mardi Gras website last Wednesday night.

Some of the stuff I’ve been hearing is that people are quite open to doing Sleaze differently, Woodhouse said. This is probably a good opportunity for Sleaze to return to being what it has been historically -¦ as a dirty party. And probably doing that in another venue is not a bad thing.

Other venues being considered include the Sydney Entertainment Centre and Technology Park in Redfern, with a decision to be made in light of community feedback within the next couple of weeks. The shift to a different timeslot was also being considered.

Certainly when Sleaze was moved, I think, in the year of the Olympics, the date of Sleaze was moved and that was still a successful party. Obviously there is some particular interest in having Sleaze on the long weekend. But I guess it depends on what size and style of party that we’re aiming for, Woodhouse said.

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