THE organisers behind the LGBTI-friendly CoastOut festival on NSW’s Coffs Harbour have announced it will not return for 2015, unless external parties come on board to organise and run the event.

A post on CoastOut’s Facebook page earlier today said it was with a “heavy heart” that the team has come to a conclusion where they were “not in a position to deliver a three night, two day festival in 2015”.

However, rather than close the door on the event completely, organisers are giving interested parties the chance to go ahead and host it, pending the success of their expressions of interest.

“If not, we may bring the festival back at a later date, if the necessary support is there,” the post reads.

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In an email circulated to sponsors, stakeholders and supporters, festival director Todd Buttery said the reason behind there being no festival this year was because of “a number of factors”, including the cost of staging the event not matching the dollars produced by funding, sponsorship and ticket sales.

“That said, the overall reason is simply numbers,” he said.

Buttery told the Star Observer the decision was not made lightly.

“It’s been a very long decision making process — even during the last few years,” he said.

“Each year we said ‘if only 200 more people came’, the festival would be in a sound financial position.

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“We felt like we tried everything with the limited budget we had.”

Buttery highlighted that while the financial state of the 2014 festival was “better than the previous four years”, it was “simply not enough” to allow 2015 to happen.

He added that a crowdfunding campaign to save the festival was also considered.

“Though we also felt that many people who already support the festival pay for travel, accommodation, tickets to come — we felt bad to then ask them to dip into their pockets more,” he said.

Buttery also outlined some of CoastOut’s achievements since it was established in 2011. These include injecting $2.5 to $3million dollars into the local economy during a low season period, giving NSW Health and ACON a platform to reach the Coffs Coast community to deliver health information, campaigns and sexual health testing procedures, and making the Coffs Coast region an LGBTI-friendly destination.

“There have been so many (highlights),” Buttery told the Star Observer.

“Each year had it’s own ‘magic’. To hear of courageous people coming out in their 50s and 60s because they finally felt included in the community, to see relationships start, blossom and grow – to break down stereotypes and homophobia in an otherwise conservative area has been amazing.”

Buttery also stressed the importance of having LGBTI pride festivals in regional areas.

“People in regional areas do not have access to venues, media and the number of people that our city ‘cousins’ have,” he said.

“We unite together in much smaller yet diverse gatherings. There is not the segregation within the gay community you get in the metropolitan areas and the community usually get behind people and situations they may not in the city.

“We wear our pride and diversity maybe a little brighter in our day-to-day because there are so few of us and yet we probably mix a lot more in the ‘outside’ world, more so than in the city areas.

“CoastOut gave people here a chance to do it en mass —  in one of own parks and at our venues which is such a rare thing for us up here.”

Other regional LGBTI pride festivals that are still active include Shepparton Pride, Sunshine Coast Pride, Cairns Pride, Tropical Fruits, and of course Daylesford’s ChillOut.

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