Mardi Gras promises new party

Mardi Gras promises new party

New Mardi Gras wants member feedback on a new parade night party after being burnt by criticism it failed to consult widely enough on booking the parade and party over two separate weekends.

The additional -˜surprise’ Mardi Gras event scheduled for parade night on 27 February has been in planning for months, NMG chair David Imrie said, and could be members-only. An email was sent to members on Monday.

Some of our members felt we hadn’t consulted with them enough on the matter. This is a good opportunity for members to give us their feedback on this particular event, he said.

Imrie claimed the changes were market-tested on 1500 volunteers and 46 parade organisers.

But the announcement last week came as a surprise to a lot of NMG members and the community, generating more than 100 responses on Sydney Star Observer’s website and dozens of letters.

Every now and then we get smacked in the face that Mardi Gras is no longer relevant and people don’t care. I think the healthy debate and discussion about this change shows people do care, Imrie said.

We’ll never know how successful this format will be until we try it, and this isn’t forever more.

Some of the conspiracy theories and myths running around are quite bizarre. There are a whole lot of factors to consider and we’ve planned a great season.

A more compact two-week arts festival was one of those decisions. Those involved last season cited the cramped schedule as reason for concern.

We’re not trying to limit people to two weeks, they can put events on whenever they like, Imrie said, adding the new format wasn’t set in stone.

He denied suggestions the decision to move the parade forward was financially motivated to resurrect the Harbour Party from two successive years of losses. Ticket sales for both the official and Harbour parties would likely be helped by the shift, he admitted, as only a quarter of volunteers were buying discounted tickets at present.

Local parade participants from floats such as Twenty10 and the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service cited energy levels and their desire to attend the official party as a reason to support the changes.

A spokesman from the award-winning Lifesavers With Pride float said the post-parade event would be crucial to the success of the altered festival.

I think its a great idea as it means that people who go to the parade can go to the party as well, he said.

The downside is the scene would have to make sure a similar (but smaller) event is on to cater for the crowds after the parade, otherwise … the city will be full of people with nowhere to go.

Twenty10 managing director Rebecca Reynolds said the changes were positive.

“On a personal perspective, having worked across parade and party, I feel a sense of relief with the change. It certainly is going to be a more managable work load.

“From the perspective of young people, the change brings with it more chance to engage with the different aspects of the Festival, while not losing their attention. In the past, those who have not been able to afford to go onto the party, have felt their night has been diminished, so we hope the change will prevent this.”

But interstate visitors told SSO they couldn’t afford to stay for two weekends and would have to choose.
Long-time Canberra float organiser Richard Allen wondered what NMG was thinking.

People in Canberra can’t afford to have two weekends in a row to celebrate Mardi Gras -” I wish they’d leave it alone, he said. I will be there for the parade but not the party.

California resident Mark Bruce intends to stay the extra week but he had booked flights on advice from NMG sponsor Atlantis Events.

We will make some air adjustments here and hope the changes won’t cost too much, he said.

Passengers booked on February’s Atlantis cruise from New Zealand to Sydney were not told of the split events, even though the company was consulted about the decision more than a month ago. Several customers claimed to have been told the cruise operator had successfully convinced NMG to move the parade forward to match the advertised cruise date.

NMG was unable to move the official party forward from 6 March as the venue in the Entertainment Quarter was already booked and the venue was not available on 27 February.

Imrie denied there had been an organising mistake and said he was unaware the NMG sponsor had been telling customers all the key events were on the 27 February weekend.

I wasn’t aware of that. Atlantis have been aware of what our programming was and the dates we booked the venue for the party. So I’m not sure how that’s occurred.

Imrie also advised that the NSW Premier’s department had advised NMG against holding the parade on 6 March to avoid major sporting events.

Imrie said he still wants to hear more suggestions on the changes and the parade night event. He claimed they had already received more than 40 responses, mostly positive.

info: You can let Mard Gras know your throughts on the festival change by emailing [email protected]

Film festival will alter

Queer Screen admits the shortened festival will impact on them, and would have liked more consultation.

Obviously, having parade day in the middle of the cultural festival has an enormous impact on the way Queer Screen presents the Mardi Gras Film Festival, Queer Screen manager Lex Lindsay said.

Traditionally that is our biggest screening weekend.

We will be announcing our festival dates soon and hope our loyal audience understands we will have to run with a different schedule of screenings than they may be familiar with. Needless to say, the quality of the content won’t be affected.

Cultural cut a cruel move

Former NMG board sponsor for the festival and ’78er Diane Minnis was concerned the overall festival had been cut in half from two years ago.

I think its counter-productive for everyone concerned, Minnis said. I don’t think it is possible to fit everything in and not be crammed.

The festival catered to a diverse range of the community, she said. This would be made harder with a shorter timetable.

More women participate in Fair Day and the arts festival than the party for instance, and a broader range of the community participates in Fair Day and the festival events, Minnis said.

Festival-like events, such as a film night, had been part of Mardi Gras since 1978, she added, whereas the party didn’t come for several years.

Split -˜makes sense’ for parade volunteers

Splitting the party and parade makes common sense, a long-term Mardi Gras volunteer says.

Suzanne Freestone, who has given more than 15 years service to Mardi Gras, said the split weekend would allow volunteer parade officials to enjoy both events without feeling tired and stressed.

It is really going to take the pressure off the parade volunteers, she told Sydney Star Observer. More than 50 percent of volunteers don’t go to the party because they are too tired and exhausted.

It will also be good for the parade though. There are a lot of people who don’t go to the parade because they are at home getting ready for the party. Now they can go to both.

Freestone said she hoped splitting the event would make it easier for volunteers at the end of the parade.

As a group, the parade volunteers latch on to the end of the parade to follow it back into the finale area. We get hundreds of people following us up the route on their way to the party. It can be downright dangerous. We’ve been pelted with bottles, spat on and attacked.

This year was better because we had some police support, but in previous years I’ve been hit over the head, attacked, pushed and shoved. If there is no party to attend, one would think this should ease off.

Additional reporting by Scott Abrahams

Story updated to reflect actual parade date is 27 February.

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41 responses to “Mardi Gras promises new party”

  1. JM

    I agree with you!!! Ditch the dicks, bin the boobs….

    Lets go head to head with Rio and the ‘carnivale’ exhibitions of the world….

    Time to illiminate the ‘freak show’ look at me Parade..

    Lets have some Pride in Mardi Gras and celebrate the successes of being Gay in the world today!!!

    As for the party… if Pill poppers and alike need a place to go then… resurrect a parade after party…. after good consultation from not only Members of Mardi Gras but the wider community at large….

    It’s an international event, and consequently a wider / broader opinion than the concentration of members (without wishing to offend) would give a refreshing insight into what we really really want…

  2. I really don’t understand. If the real issue is the parade volunteers… honestly the real issue, then why not hold a separate smaller party for them a week later? To move 20,000 party goers instead is crazy.
    Then all of a sudden we have this new “after party” in this article- well there better not be any volunteers go to that… otherwise why couldn’t they just go to the normal party when it was on the same night?????????
    Something just does not add up.

  3. Who cares what “drug fucked” Queens do!!!


  4. The quote “Our first cruise to Australia had to be grand, so we’ve worked closely with Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to perfectly coordinate our schedules. We’ll arrive in Sydney the same day as the famous Mardi Gras Parade and Party,” certainly doesn’t suggest a conspiracy between Atlantis and NMG… Actually it appears pretty obvious Atlantis were not aware of the decision prior as they referred to the Party as well on Feb 27th. Bloody drama queens.

  5. MG lost its relevance a long time ago, and now is just another excuse to dress up and party – nothing wrong with that, but you do that on Oxford st any weekend.

    This is a great opportunity to encourage the more apathetic queens to focus on the political relevance and history of MG, and to celebrate how lucky we are to be living in country where homosexuality is not illegal.

    Let’s go even further, ditch the drag queen/ tits and arse/ exhibitionist 70’s approach which we’ve all seen too many bloody times, and get a new float selection committee who can give us a parade with passion, humour, politics and 21st century relevance to gay and lesbian identity.

  6. Why do olympic athletes need a parade. Come on guys, we are in the age of acceptance (and big buck$$$$) – isn’t it enough?

  7. If Mardi Gras completely called it a day then Gay Marriage would be immediately happening. Its an old Outdated Parade which has died long time ago. Mardi Gras has done nothing but contributed to Homophobia and the growth of Christian congregations.

  8. Why do gays still need a parade though, come on guys, we are in an age of acceptance now you all have law’s that look after you – isnt this enough?

  9. How on earth would Richard Cobden know anything? Turns out he’s not even a member of New Mardi Gras and he’s never been involved in any of their planning meetings.

  10. So, NMGs line is that; the changes were market-tested on 1500 volunteers and 46 parade organisers. What a load of crap. You cant tell a one gay person something without it getting out let alone one thousand, five hundred and forty six of us.
    NMG has become as trustworthy as a Real Estate Agent!!

  11. Thanks to Richard Cobden the truth has now come out. Shame on you Board and CEO! The Board has sold out to crass commercial sponsership, and pretended to dress it up as “consultation” with 1500 people. I know no one who was consulted. I agree that we need to vote to cheange this stupid decision as soon as possible. Lets bring on a meeting!

  12. Simply amazing ! Mardi Gras has market researched this new timetable ? I find that hard to believe.

    The last time Mardi Gras went bankrupt a major contributor was a fall off in party/event ticket sales when international visitor numbers dropped. Visitors are a major contributor to this event’s significance on the calendar and the organisation’s bottom line. It doesn’t seem that these people have been “market researched”. The extra effort and expense of staying around another week for the event’s big fundraising party is something that a lot of visitors won’t be willing or financially able to do.

    All respect to the volunteers and members for this much loved event (and quite a few are saying they weren’t consulted)but consultation needed to occur more
    widely amongst all the other stakeholders for the chances of success of these changes to be accurately assessed.

    What about the momentum and energy of Parade night? Will that not gradually dissipate over the following week? Why not a build up to the parade rather than a build down after the parade going towards the final party? Won’t any dissipation in focus reduce the party’s numbers, even amongst the locals.

    An event on the scale of Mardi Gras is properly the climax of mounting energies rather than a starting point. An alternative option that should have been considered in any consultation would have been to hold smaller street events in the week leading up to the big parade adding to the sense of excitement and anticipation.

    What will happen to all those people on Mardi Gras night who had attended the party as part of the festivities but can’t get tickets to a smaller event. Which enterprising entrepreneur will rent the Entertainment quarter site instead of Mardi Gras? Will it even be a gay party? How will the larger number of gay people on Oxford street deal with the straighter parade audience? Isn’t there a
    potential security problem there?

    Why is the festival being cut in half when we were told that it was where the future focus of Mardi Gras would be?

    It’s one thing to argue for change for the event but another to introduce these particular changes…and without adequate consultation. Give us a proper debate about the possible options for change if this is to be more than a mere Mickey Mouse consultation. The changed timetable should not be a fait-accompli. Bring on the real consultation now!

  13. A ‘senior volunteer’ for parade, Brad. That is just too funny. I’ve also volunteered for a numbeer of years and its you ‘senior volunteers’ that really need to let go of what has been really great in the past, but now may need a bit of sprucing up.

    I say well done NMG for having the balls to make changes. The parade and party are great, fun, exciting…all of that. But it is also a bit the same each year.

    I, for one, am looking forward to it!

  14. Dear David Imrie

    I have organised and planned my MardiGras time for next in regards of booking a hotel room, arranging leave time with work etc etc and the list goes on.

    Can you please provide me money that totals the amount of the accommodation and the tour programs I have booked and payed? as I will not be using these anymore, also, can you also please contact my boss to reschedule all my meetings and responsibilities for the duration of late Feb to mid March next year at you’re convenience?

    Oh and lastly, can you please cancel my MG membership oh and another thing (I almost forgot) can you please look in the mirror and slap your face.

    Much Appreciated.

    – Ripped Off.

    Editor’s note: Bexter, David Imrie has asked for you to contact him direct with details of your expenses. You can email him at [email protected].

  15. the comments about about Queer Screen not be consulted.

    or from the volunteer who thinks it would be great for the volunteers/parade people to have the party a week later and her comment that at then about following the parade out to wherever it finishes may mean less people will attack them because there is no party ??? makes no sense ! will be the same crowd watching it my dear.

    I think NMG should try and bribe the people who have booked Fox for 27 Feb with some large $’s to move their fair to a week earlier or later instead. Hopefully they havent been advertising it too heavily and the large bribe will pay for any advertising that needs to be altered.

    Otherwise goodbye NMG board.

  16. So they asked volunteers and “some” party organisers about the Party and forget about the other 15,000 or so ?

    Of course give the volunteers and those in the Parade a party. Why not open the Hordern on Sunday and do a day Party for them ? its all set up.
    They can have a good nights sleep/rest and then have their own Party.

    The majority will want to do the Party after the Parade but where are they going to put it on if its true Fox is booked out for a Gift Fair ? Dont even think of Homebush. What Halls has the Gift Fair taken over ? If its just RHI then suppose we could do with out it but it would be sorely missed. Questions, questions.

  17. The following if a quote from the promotional material for the Atlantis Cruise emailed to Mardi Gras members on 26 March this year:
    “We then head north to Sydney where we’ll be docked for 2 days at Circular Quay in the heart of the city…Our first cruise to Australia had to be grand, so we’ve worked closely with Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to perfectly coordinate our schedules. We’ll arrive in Sydney the same day as the famous Mardi Gras Parade and Party, (27 February)disembarking late on Sunday to allow you time to truly experience the world’s largest gay and lesbian celebration.”
    Its time the Mardi Gras Board, and the CEO we pay, came clean and were honest with members.

  18. The Chair of NMG has claimed that 1,500 volunteers were ‘market tested’ to move the party.

    As someone who is a senior volunteer for Parade, I was very interested to read this. I certainly was not ‘market tested’ and I’m not aware of any volunteer that was.

  19. I was a team leader in this years parade and I think the volunteers party should be advised well in advance. It could be a lunch at a park on a Saturday with some money put into it from NMG and the rest could be BYO.

    I would prefer that then a hastily “there’s a party tomorrow” sms, with one free drink and the rest you pay (expensively).

    I’m thinking about setting up a picnic for my team on a weekend with a BYO lunch and drinks anyway.

  20. I have been involved with Mardi Gras both as a volunteer and more recently a member for many years. I was there when the organisation went bust last time. Furthermore I helped by volunteering and raising it from the ashes again.

    As a member, decisions of this calibre really need to be voted on at an AGM or extraordinary meeting before being announced to the public!

    The latest member email from NMG states that the board are asking for our feedback on what should happen post parade rather than overturning this decision or calling for a vote. This is negligent behaviour and fails to understand major gravity of the situation.

    When Mardi Gras did go bankrupt last time there were many paid employee positions therefore creating a form of hierarchal management within our community organisation.

    It seems that this is happening again.

    After viewing the NMG website recruiting for a Head of Events, Head of Marketing & Publicity and Festival Coordinator is occurring. I can’t help but think that these positions will only lead to a further flow on of other paid jobs within the organisation therefore further increasing its commercialisation.

    Further to this New Mardi Gras have announced big bold plans that they are moving to a new office in Oxford Street whereas I believe the current property in Petersham is sufficient if some minor renovations occurred. The questions remains and prime concern being is there enough money for all of this if the party, one of their biggest fundraising events fails due to this decision?

    It was not so long ago that the Gay Games in Sydney which had a similar event structure lost many millions of dollars due to mismanagement. These recent financial events of the former Mardi Gras and Sydney Gay Games cannot simply be ignored. More importantly our world is experiencing an economic downturn therefore in these tough economic times the decision to increase spending and risk is questionable.

    Further negligent behaviour is the previously advertised dates of Mardi Gras 2010 having been published on their website for quite some time now!

    There is a way to change this and it’s not too late for the NMG board to change their decision.

    Further to this as members we have voting rights and can change the decision ourselves at the 2009 AGM! There are several ways that this can occur, one being an agenda item or another as voting for a new board however there would need to be a sufficient amount of nominations for these positions when announced. As members we need to jam pack the AGM this year, not unlike those similar times that happened under the Koala Oxford Hotel in the 90’s.

    Come on Members, this year is the time to show up and vote!!!

  21. Richard was willing to put his name to the facts, which I am sure he has right. After all, it makes a lot more sense now doesn’t it?

    I wish Mardi Gras had just told the truth. Much of the public criticism has come from people of goodwill who believed it was too big a change to happen without consultation and who were understandably annoyed that MG claimed to have consulted widely when it obviously had not done so. If, as seems to be the case, the splitting of Parade and Party has been forced on NMG by a genuine mistake on its part which can’t be fixed now, we should get behind them and try and make it work for next year.

  22. New Mardi Gras is so sad now -“ They have lost the meaning of what Mardi Gras is actually about.

    -œNew Mardi Gras wants member feedback on a new parade night party?

    Here is my feedback: The parade is more important than the party -“ so who cares. And can members of NMG please not vote David back in .

  23. Richard Cobden is the sort of person who doesn’t post things unless he is sure of his facts. I imagine that a lot of questions have been asked at New Mardi Gras and even more interesting ones will be asked at the AGM. I can see a sword waiting for someone to fall on it…

  24. This “new” party idea just goes to show the original idea of splitting the parade and party events was poorly conceived, thought through insufficiently, undertaken without the proper appropriate level of consultation, and indeed should never have happened.

    How can anyone sensibly suggest (and maintain a straight face) that it was a good and necessary idea to split the parade fromn the party – because people are too tired etc etc blah blah blah – and then suddenly a week later turn around and announce that a new party event is now needed to spring up at the end of the parade where the original party used to be? like some kind of mythical hydra.

    If there’s to be a party at the end of the parade, then hold the parade on March 6, the same day as the planned party and have done with it. All that’s likely to be achieved by this is two loss making parties and a significant drop in attendence at the parade. Grow a pair NMG, admit you made a mistake and fix it.

    – Phil

  25. The best thing about all this is all the conspirecy theories:

    1. The Government made them do it.
    2. An American cruise company made them do it.
    3. They did it to make Harbour Party profitible.
    4. They couldn’t get the RHI on the date they wanted.
    5. They are greedy and wanted to run an extra party.
    6. This is the first step before moving parade to Homebush.
    7. They did it because they don’t like lesbians.

    What a sinister group they are at New Mardi Gras!

  26. Richard Cobden posted this on last week’s story. When’s the AGM?

    Richard Cobden said,
    May 26th, 2009 @ 8:31 pm I received credible information some 6 weeks ago that this change was driven by an agreement with the Atlantis people which obliged NMG to move the Parade to the last Saturday in February, while the standing booking for the RHI/Hordern is the first Saturday in March. Apparently an attempt was made by NMG to move the Party date to the Parade date but Playbill (who control the Showground/Fox venues) rejected it on the basis that the venue was booked for the Gift Fair. In other words, the separated dates were the result of a combination of an undisclosed commercial obligation and a plain and simple oversight. Any suggestion that it is by design is an ex post facto attempt to cover up.