SYDNEY Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has said IT problems may have led some of its members missing out on cut-price tickets to one of the festival’s signature events.

Meanwhile, the organisation hasn’t ruled out next year’s Mardi Gras Party being the same size as that of 2014, despite a plan to reduce the amount of space at the event following a budget blowout.

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The Star Observer understands that an IT error meant an email, due to be sent last Monday informing members of the first release of Harbour Party tickets, wasn’t sent until after the lowest-priced $69 tickets had sold out.

Enthusiasm for the Harbour Party was so high that within hours, the full allocation of both first release and second release $99 tickets — which were available for anyone to purchase — was exhausted.

Tickets to Harbour Party, which will feature remix specialist Bimbo Jones, DJ Du Jour and Kitty Glitter, are now in excess of $100 — although this is still less than 2014’s top price.

There was consternation from some that none of the early-bird release was reserved exclusively for Mardi Gras members before the general public sale.

Last week former Mardi Gras co-chair David Imrie wrote an open letter to Mardi Gras stating, “members should be rewarded for their loyalty, and great deals should be made available to members first”.

Imrie claimed he had been approached by scalpers selling first release tickets at an “inflated price”.

Mardi Gras chief executive Michael Rolik told the Star Observer that members could still purchase full price Harbour Party tickets at a 20 per cent discount to non-members.

However, he rejected calls for a members-only release of cut-price tickets, saying feedback showed many people couldn’t afford entry to last season’s main events.

“This is why we introduced early bird tickets and to be fair and equitable to all our supporters we made the price open to all,” he said.

Regarding the lack of a heads-up to members about the release of early bird tickets, Rolik said: “Unfortunately the communications to members about the Harbour Party on-sale went out later than we had hoped, meaning that some members and other supporters did not find out about the cheaper tickets till they had sold out.

For Mardi Gras Party we will ensure that members and other supporters are given ample notice before tickets go on sale so they have the opportunity to access the early bird tickets.”

Mardi Gras has also revealed that the Party could be the same size in 2015 despite organisers previously saying the footprint would have to shrink in order to rein in costs.

The two largest spaces used at Party are the Royal Hall of Industries and the adjacent Hordern Pavilion, the latter of which is capable of holding 5500 people.

Cost overruns and a lack of ticket sales to this year’s Party were largely to blame for a $178,000 loss on the 2014 Mardi Gras season.

Talking to the Star Observer in June, Rolik flagged major changes: “We have to live within our means so it will certainly be a smaller Party.

This week, Mardi Gras backed away from the comments.

“We’re working hard on finalising the line-up for this season’s Mardi Gras Party,” Rolik said.

The line-up for the 2015 Party will see a party of a similar size to 2014.”

While this may ring alarm bells in some quarters about the organisation’s commitment to turning around the deficit, a long-standing Mardi Gras watcher has told the Star Observer any decision to keep the Party the same size may in fact be because a major headline act, capable of pulling in the punters, has already been signed up.

Some of the most successful parties in recent years have featured global stars such as Kylie Minogue and George Michael.

Organisers have said they will release the first details of Party in the coming weeks.

Editor’s note: Several updates regarding information on the size of next year’s party were made to this story two hours after the original was first published.

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