Mardi Gras’ future is once again under a dark cloud with the Mardi Gras board forced to withdraw their proposal to keep the organisation in community hands.

An unsecured $1.2 million Vodafone three-year sponsorship deal, which formed the financial cornerstone of Mardi Gras’ offer to its creditors, fell through at the beginning of this week, forcing Mardi Gras’ directors to withdraw their proposal.

The breakdown in negotiations brings the organisation one step closer to liquidation and yet again exposes Mardi Gras to a potential bidding war on the open market.

In a last dash bid for salvation, the Mardi Gras board has been granted a 30-day adjournment at a meeting of creditors held on Thursday morning. It is now up to the Board to secure financial support for a new offer or deed of company arrangement (DCA) for creditor evaluation.

Administrator Scott Pascoe told the meeting that Mardi Gras’ Erskineville headquarters will be completely shut down -” including its electricity and phone lines -” and that approximately $30,000 further expenses will be incurred. All remaining staff have been terminated as of Thursday.

More controversially Pascoe also flagged his intent to simultaneously call for offers in a sale by tender of Mardi Gras’ assets. The move is designed to safeguard creditors in the event that Mardi Gras’ new DCA does not come to fruition.

A buy-out of Mardi Gras’ assets by private bidders could prove problematic for the new owners. Passions at last Saturday’s community meeting at the Seymour Centre focused on the need for the gay and lesbian community to make it clear to administrators that under no circumstances would the community support Mardi Gras under private ownership.

Former Mardi Gras president Richard Cobden received rousing applause for his staunch calls to boycott Mardi Gras and its sponsors if the organisation falls to commercial interests.

We’re between a rock and a hard place here. What I think this meeting ought to do is set a few really clear rules. Number one: no private or commercial buyer of Mardi Gras whatsoever. Number two: if there is a commercial or private buyer of Mardi Gras, then we boycott it and we boycott it for years until it’s worth five dollars again and we buy it back for the community, Cobden said.

If that’s the message that’s got to get back to that administrator, then surely that’s the only way to go because only then will he know that he should only be talking to the community.

Community member Kate Rowe also attracted support for her calls for community ownership at all costs.

This is about taking back ownership for what we call Mardi Gras and, politics and agendas aside, we have to stop thinking that Mardi Gras is about the party and the festival only, Rowe told the forum.

We have to get back to the roots of the community and I think that a community proposal for Mardi Gras is the only way to go whether it’s a new thing rising from the ashes or something transitional, it’s the money being raised and being put back into our community. It’s not about fucking corporate profit.

A community coalition consisting of Pride, ACON, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and Queer Screen is currently re-assessing the best way forward to ensure Mardi Gras remains under community ownership.

Pride co-president Lou-Anne Lind told the Star Wednesday night that Pride’s board would be meeting the following day to decide how they could support the coalition.

At the moment things are changing very quickly regarding Mardi Gras’ situation and Pride will have to get together so that we can decide what is best for Mardi Gras and for the community, Lind said.

We are co-hosting this Saturday’s community meeting and obviously we hope to gather some solid community input there.

Saturday’s meeting will be a follow-up to last Saturday’s community forum. Further community discussion is expected to take place on the fate of Mardi Gras as a community institution, including plans to generate a community trust. Venue for the meeting will be the Metropolitan Community Church, 96 Crystal Street, Petersham, at 2pm.

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