New Mardi Gras could relocate its season launch to the Opera House forecourt next year and charge a $5 entry fee for the traditionally free event, if ideas floated at a community consultation forum last weekend are put into effect.

And the organisation would expect at least six figures if it sold presentation rights to the season, last Saturday’s forum heard.

The meeting in Petersham drew about 50 people for a wide-ranging discussion with several New Mardi Gras board members, including chair Marcus Bourget.

Forum attendees proposed ideas about the annual launch and parade, as well as broaching the controversial issue of presentation rights.

Bourget told the meeting New Mardi Gras could afford a launch next year -“ provided the organisation levied an entry fee and had control of bar sales, and the weather remained fine.

But it’s a question of what [the community] will bear in assisting us to put on that event, he said.

Bourget has previously said the launch would likely be scrapped to cut costs.

The meeting split on the proposed launch entry fee. One person suggested donated prizes could be offered as a sweetener for a $5 entry charge.

But others argued an entry charge would limit equal access to an event that remained vital to community visibility.

Relocating to the Opera House forecourt -“ Launch’s former home -“ could mean a lower-cost launch, New Mardi Gras treasurer Michael Rolik said.

While this year’s launch in Hyde Park cost about $30,000, an Opera House event could cost as little as $25,000.

But this would only allow for a crowd of between 5,000 and 10,000, Rolik said. Estimates put this year’s launch attendance at between 10,000 and 12,000.

The possible sale of season presentation rights proved less contentious, after Marcus Bourget stressed the sale of naming rights -“ to the [product name] Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras -“ was not on the table.

He said New Mardi Gras expected to reap at least six figures if it sold presentation rights.

The forum reached broad consensus such an agreement would be acceptable. It expressed strong preference for the wording in partnership with, which connoted a sense of collaboration, over an arrangement such as presented by.

Bourget told Sydney Star Observer after the meeting the board would consider the forum’s views in its ongoing discussions.

He said Launch was unlikely to occur at Hyde Park next year as the board sought to make the event cost-neutral, although no final decision had been made.

The current position of the board is that we don’t think Hyde Park is a viable venue for Launch, so we are looking at alternatives.

He would not be drawn on whether New Mardi Gras was in consultations with companies about presentation rights, or when any agreement might be finalised.

Meantime, nightly live shows could be staged at Taylor Square in the week prior to next year’s Mardi Gras parade on 4 March, under a plan being considered by festival organisers.

If it all goes ahead as planned, there will be a stage on Taylor Square that runs for a week prior to the parade, Trevor Ashley, an entertainment planner on the New Mardi Gras Parade Working Group, told the Star.

The proposal is yet to be approved.

Ashley is also planning a Happy Mardi Gras video message from international stars, to screen at Taylor Square in the lead-up to the parade.

Ashley hoped to involve celebrities including Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria and Madonna.

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