headAfter five years at the helm, Midsumma Festival chair Lisa Watts has announced she will step down from the role this year at next month’s AGM.

Board member and lawyer Aaron Hockly is expected to fill the position with the unanimous support of the board.

Watts (centre front) said she was proud to have been part of such a passionate and spirited team over the past five years to help Melbourne celebrate queer culture.

“We’ve operated under different models across that time, working successfully with Adam Lowe Group as festival managers for three years and last year returning to more direct management with the fabulous Monique Thorpe,” she said.

“To all the staff and volunteers I have worked with over my [time] leading Midsumma – big hats off and thank you. Midsumma belongs to all of us.”

“The board is all so pleased that Aaron is able to lead this next chapter. I will stay involved in the Midsumma family as a supporter and advisor. My day job as COO of The Conversation Media Group will involve more travel in the coming year as we expand internationally, but I’ll be able to play a role supporting Aaron, Monique and the board as they plan the 26th festival.”

She said Hockly was a “thoughtful, experienced community leader” who had been instrumental in commissioning last year’s stand-out performance, Gaybies, which drew high-profile actors such as Magda Szubanski, Todd McKenney and Virginia Gay to perform pro bono.

City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said it had been wonderful to see the festival grow and see the city’s diversity on show in such a public and celebratory way.

“I’ve shared the stage with Lisa at many Midsumma events and would like to acknowledge the way she’s pulled together so many different GLBTI volunteer community groups and events to put on this magnificent festival for Melbourne. I welcome Aaron to the role as chair and know the festival will continue to shine for the next 25 years”.

It is understood the annual festival is expected to post a loss for 2013 due to higher costs for infrastructure at the Carnival day, combined with lower than expected bar sales and donations.

Watts said they were in active discussions with the City of Melbourne to find a way to reduce the costs of Carnival day which was close to $500,000.

The Midsumma AGM is held on June 5 at The Leveson, North Melbourne.

Photo: midsumma.org.au

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