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. Oh the Passion and the Fury!
    Where were all these whining bitches when Rudd made his anti- Gay Marriage comments? Where were their scornful letters to the editor? their personal protestations to their elected politicians? Fuck, you queens are as vaccuous as your lyrca undies.

  2. Parade night will cause a lot of trouble on oxford street with all the bars being full from 9pm. And police will have to sort this out.

  3. its a shame that they forgot to book the hall for the 27th and lied to everyone….there are 15 of us that had tickets to come to OZ from the states and we had to pay 400$$ to change the tickets EACH ..Im so mad at whoever was stupid enough not to book the venue..
    But Im also mad as hell..that they LIED to us when we called to tell them they screwed up..and all they could tell us was…..oh well dont come…what a mess …thanks to the mardi gras commettiee for screwing up our vacation

  4. So what hall/s has the gift fair booked ?

    Usually these things have the RHI or the Hordern.

    If it is only 1 Hall then we can still have a reasonable sized party around them ?

    Would be good to know please David Imrie ?

  5. I love comments like Scott’s –

    “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”

    So tell us Scott what will make the Party better by holding it a week after the Parade ????????????????????????

    Can you guarantee that people will be walking around in their Parade costumes for all to see ? still have that proud look on their faces that they did it ? still have the Vibe ? still have that adrenaline high ? or will it simply just be another party no different than Sleaze Ball ?

    Tell us how it will be better ?

    Oh and as for Pinkboard…….well years ago Panther said he had to censor the postings as some got quite vile. They did and its his call. I dont understand why now in these current times. Back then Forums where being sued but didnt those cases get thrown out ? and the Forums could not be held for peoples comments ?
    Pinkboard has certainly not published some of my posts. Sure was having a go at someone but the post I was commenting on was pretty vile. Bias ? not sure on that score. Could be just a bad server as well so they may just lose posts but it does seem to happen often and seems I am not the only one.

    So Scott and all…………. explain how the Part will be better ?

  6. Given the above accusations, it is interesting that, in the last two issues of The Star Observer, ALL the published letters have been totally negative, even vitriolic.

    Does this mean The Star Observer has not received one positive letter over the last two weeks? I know of at least two letter writers who indeed sent positive feedback to The Star Observer and neither was published. Or is there perhaps a bias at The Star Observer as some would accuse Pinkboard and SX?

    We are used to owner or editorial bias in our mainstream media -“ compare The Daily Terror to SMH, for example.

    If so, in this case, that’s fine. It should just be declared so that readers are not under the impression that there is ONLY negative reaction in the community. Quite simply, there isn’t. You just have to read everything to get balanced information and views.

    Editor’s Note: We have to date published every letter received in the office about the Mardi Gras decision. We have no interest stymieing debate on this issue. More letters have been received since the last deadline and will be published in the next issue.

  7. Interesting comment from Damian… I too posted a mildy negative comment to Pinkboard and it did not make the cut. Is the debate being censored?

    SX also seems to be full of praise – the list of support from NMG notables read like a scripted advert.

  8. It’s quite clear that “Pinkboard” are backing these changes rather than allowing comments that speak against the changes and how to change them to be posted!

    Thanks Star Observer for allowing us to freely voice our opinions on this important issue!!!

  9. “The majority of the main stakeholders have given a reserved -˜thumbs up’ to the concept”? What Damon says is very much in dispute here. Just look at how many stakeholders have had their ability to participate in Mardi Gras downgraded:

    *visitors who must now arrange much more leave from work to attend and pay for a far longer stay,
    *the participants in the Arts festival which is halved to two weeks, half of which must now compete with the new events between parade and party and where the central weekend (until now the busiest time of the festival)is in conflict with the Parade weekend
    *the thousands who love to party after the parade while they are still on a high from the festive atmosphere.These people buying tickets have kept Mardi Gras financially afloat over the decades. Yet it is a minority saying they are unable to attend the party that is leading to this dramatic change of course which leaves most without the ability to get into an official Mardi Gras party on Parade night after years of loyal support.

    That is a very large number of stakeholders indeed. The overwhelming majority of stakholders were not “market tested” at all,something that was only done with a select number of NMG members. That the new arrangements have slashed their participation has not been acknowledged by David Imrie and the NMG board. When making what are the largest changes to Mardi Gras since it became a summer night event the NMG board should not be meeting in private to decide what to do before a full public debate/consultation has happened.
    I add my voice to the call by other stakeholders for NMG to call a Special General Meeting with 21 days notice to allow for adequate consultation and debate about the changes. Plainly what a great number of stakeholders need for them to continue to participate as they have done for years has not been taken into proper consideration and their voices should be heard.

  10. I am wondering if Bexter, and others with strong opinions here, have emailed David Imrie (after being given the opportunity to)?

    If not one wonders what credibility can be given to rants and raves regarding personal hardship through the changes that are, after all, effective in more than 8 months from now?

    How much more notice do you really, honestly, need?

    This issue really has become rather boring. The decision has been made. The majority of main stakeholders have given a reserved ‘thumbs up’ to the concept. Let’s embrace it and move on…

  11. The NMG Board’s decision to hold the Parade and Party a week apart is a decision which changes a fundamental element of Mardi Gras.

    The Parade and Party have been held on the same night since 1982, and have provided a twin climax, the grand finale of the Mardi Gras Festival since 1985. This combination defines Mardi Gras for many people. Moreover, our community’s ability to successfully stage the two events on the one night, at the end of a diverse Festival, which also includes Fair Day, the largest daytime gay and lesbian event in Australia, for over 20 years is a matter of pride for many lesbians and gay men.

    This doesn’t mean it has to stay this way forever. All events evolve, and there are often sound reasons for making changes. Any change to the fundamental nature should however recognise the GLBT community’s ownership and investment in Mardi Gras. This means it should only be made after widespread and informed community debate. It should not be made in secret, behind closed doors, without prior public discussion, by a Board elected, if my memory serves me right, unopposed at a poorly attended AGM.

    The decision has however been made, and as arrangements for next year’s Parade and Party (venue bookings, liaison with government agencies etc) are already underway, if not set in stone, it may be difficult to reverse it. Moreover, overturning board decisions once they have been made may not be good corporate governance.

    What is needed is a mechanism that ensures there is consultation and debate before such decisions are made in future. One way to achieve this would be to amend the NMG constitution to require the NMG Board to consult the NMG membership before any change to the fundamental nature or any of the fundamental elements of Mardi Gras is made.

    The constitutional amendment would spell out what these fundamental elements are.

    This could be achieved by inserting a new Division IV in the NMG Constitution entitled “Consultation with Members” which could read:

    6.18 The Board must convene a General Meeting before adopting a resolution to:

    (a) alter the primary focus of any of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, Mardi Gras Party, Mardi Gras Festival or Mardi Gras Fair Day as gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual events;
    (b) change the nature of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade as a street event;
    (c) not hold the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade;
    (d) hold the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade at a location other than Oxford and Flinders Street, Darlinghurst;
    (c) not hold the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade at night;
    (d) hold the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade at any time other than on the last Saturday in February or the first Saturday in March;
    (e) other than in 2010, hold the Mardi Gras Parade and Mardi Gras Party on separate nights;
    (f) not hold a Mardi Gras Festival prior to the Mardi Gras Parade; or
    (g) not hold a Mardi Gras Fair Day within in the four weeks prior to the Mardi Gras Parade.

    6.19 The notice for such general meeting shall include a statement setting out the proposed resolution or resolutions and the reasons for the proposed resolution or resolutions.

    6.20 The principal business of the general meeting shall be consideration of a motion in the form:

    “This general meeting endorses the resolution or resolutions set out in the notice of this meeting, as required by Paragraph 6.19 of the Constitution of New Mardi Gras Limited.”

    This amendment would ensure that community discussion and consultation will occur before any change to the fundamental element of Mardi Gras is made – 6.18 (a)-(g) effectively lists these fundamental elements of Mardi Gras.

    This is because 21 days notice must be given of any general meeting in writing to the members, and by advertisement in the Star Observer or other such similar publication that circulates within the gay, lesbian, transgender,
    bisexual and queer communities.

    Immediately this happens, the proposed change is made public, and can be reported, discussed and debated in bars, on websites, in the GLBT media etc.

    When the general meeting is held, the members can show their support for the change by voting for the motion to endorse it, or show their opposition by voting against it.

    The board could still go ahead with the change, even if the resolution to endorse it was lost. Its loss would not prevent the board from going ahead with the change if it believed it was justified. What is important is that the community debate will have taken place before the decision was made, and not afterwards.

    Nor should the board fear this process. The most significant change to Mardi Gras – moving it from the end of June to the end of Summer – was made using a similar process.

    The Mardi Gras Task Group (as it was then) convened three community meetings to discuss this and other changes to Mardi Gras – rather than believing it had the power to make the decisions itself. And while those meetings were robust, their outcome ensured that Mardi Gras never looked back.

    Editor’s Note: Sam, New Mardi Gras president David Imrie has asked you contact him direct about this matter. You can email him at [email protected]