With the multimillion-dollar Oxford Street upgrade set to continue until at least February 2006, retailers have launched a promotional campaign featuring a recently transformed local identity in a bid to offset disruption from the street works.

Local retailers’ group Darlinghurst Business Partnership earlier this month released the first of three Oxford Street promotional posters featuring drag performer Claire de Lune.

De Lune, who broke her nose during a performance at Arq nightclub in June, appears in the first poster with her head bandaged, under the heading: The Drag is having a Make Over. Shop Oxford St Still Fabulous.

A second poster, depicting de Lune with fewer bandages, will be released as the work progresses over coming months. A bandage-free de Lune will appear on a third poster once the Oxford Street upgrade is complete.

While de Lune has now recovered for her injuries, she posed in bandages in sympathy for local retailers during the $20-million street works.

My face is now better, but I am still feeling bad about Oxford Street, so in sympathy I may keep the bandages, de Lune told Sydney Star Observer.

It’s just to remind people that Oxford Street has been very kind to them over the years, so to be kind to Oxford Street during the makeover, and keep shopping.

Don’t let the old girl down. The shops have been supporting the gay community, so keep supporting them.

The poster campaign comes out of a $20,000 marketing support funding package from the City of Sydney, which has faced criticism for its handling of the Oxford Street upgrade.

At a community forum in June, retailers said the works were a disaster for business and demanded compensation.

Phil Wharton, president of the Darlinghurst Business Partnership, told the Star this week the current $20,000 funding package, approved by council in June, was welcome but belated.

It’s welcome, but it should have been undertaken prior to the commencement of the works and maintained right the way through, Wharton said.

What the City of Sydney should have been doing, since it’s their works, is highlighting that there’s some cosmetic work going on, but everything’s still happening, businesses are still open, and [people should] support the area.

Darlinghurst Business Partnership is also planning other promotional events to tie in with the poster campaign, including an Oxford Street Halloween party.

Meanwhile, the company completing the Oxford Street upgrade, Belmadar Constructions, has gained approval to work until midnight six days a week to speed up the improvements.

If Belmadar undertakes the late-night shifts and does not stop work over Christmas, the Oxford Street renovation should be completed by February next year, in time for Mardi Gras, another community forum heard on Tuesday.

But Belmadar has yet to begin the late-night shifts and has only committed to night work as appropriate, the forum heard.

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