Among the organisations and individuals affected by Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras’ (SGLMG) belt-tightening moves is Queer Screen, which has been hit with a reduction of $20,000 in SGLMG sponsorship funding.

But Queer Screen executive officer Richard King remains adamant that SGLMG is not to blame and told the Star that while ticket prices had escalated slightly and there were some cuts to the festival program, it was all systems go in the lead-up to the SGLMG cultural festival.

The funding we were getting for the past few years was $60,000 per annum, so when SGLMG reduced the amount, we had a major rethink on how to approach the festival, King said. For example, we’ve contracted out the production of the [Queer Screen] guide, which will save us some money, and we’ve held off plans for outdoor screening and expanding the Roxy Parramatta sessions.

But the last thing we’d do is blame Mardi Gras, he said. The festival will still be a good one, with more sessions for 2002 than ever before, including late night sessions at the Dendy Newtown with some outrageous trash planned there, plus a fantastic series of Asian films, and compared to 2001, we also have a very strong lesbian program.

Among Queer Screen supporters is the Oxford Hotel, which is sponsoring three screenings and opening up its Gingers cocktail lounge as a post-film Festival Club venue. According to Oxford Hotel manager, Terry Percy, the decision to sponsor was an easy one. It makes sense to get involved in the festival wherever we can and having a beautiful space in which to congregate afterwards will hopefully encourage people to really -˜make a night of it’.

With only two full-time staff (with another part-time staff member around festival time) King said that the assistance of over 50 volunteers, and the Queer Screen board, was invaluable.

Pip Newling, Queer Screen president, said that since Queer Screen’s inception in 1993, there has been, especially in recent months, a concerted effort by the board to look at big picture issues. Basically, we’re looking at aligning ourselves a bit more to the community as a whole, not just the festival itself, she told the Star. We’ve got projects to encourage queer filmmakers, including youth and their stories, and we’re attempting to get a pilot running where we use queers from the film industry, and from the community as a whole, to get voices heard where they wouldn’t normally be heard.

Newling comments that it’s an interesting time for Queer Screen and that she personally is very excited about the organisation’s long-term prospects. It’s about local content, getting queer stories made, doing more fundraising events and getting more sponsorship, she enthused. We’re a pretty new board and young in terms of community experience, but everyone is so enthusiastic. In some respects, the festival has always been there with the organisation itself hidden. We do need a profile though so we’re working hard to market ourselves as a community organisation.

The SGLMG Queer Screen festival program will be released on the Australia Day long weekend with bookings to be processed by the City Recital Hall (9233 6269). King has advised people who wish to make multiple bookings to phone rather than place their bookings online as the system would not be as effective as last year.

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