Seven people who will lead Mardi Gras into the future as directors of a new community-based entity were announced yesterday.

The announcement followed evening meetings this week at ACON’s Surry Hills headquarters between community groups Pride, Queer Screen, ACON, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) and key community members.

So far, ACON CEO Stevie Clayton, area health service manager Michael Woodhouse, former Mardi Gras president Murray McLachlan, former Mardi Gras board member and Parade and Party Committee director Jacqui Jones, former Sydney Star Observer general manager Karla Hansford, finance manager Brendan Crotty, and solicitor and former GLRL secretary Stuart Newell have been confirmed as directors of new Mardi Gras.

Solicitor Nicci Clayhills, co-chair of the Inner City Legal Centre, has been appointed a non-board member company secretary.

A statement released yesterday by the caretaker board said the company will be registered this week and that the board will then make recommendations on [further board] appointments to fill any gaps in skills or expertise.

Michael Woodhouse told the Star yesterday that the board has not had sufficient time to decide on the board structure, and that filling the remaining five board positions could still take a couple of weeks.

We need community members with a range of skills, including sponsorship skills and sponsorship contacts, backgrounds in the arts, and ideas on how events might look, and while we already have members with strong business skills, we probably need a few more people who have a background in business, he said.

According to Woodhouse, the board has not yet made a decision on whether new Mardi Gras will work with current Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras directors in putting forward a new Deed of Company Arrangement (DCA) or buy-out bid to creditors. A previous DCA from SGLMG was withdrawn a fortnight ago after an essential sponsorship deal with Vodafone fell through.

We haven’t made a final decision on that. What we’ve said is that there’s been a really strong feeling that there’s advantages in transferring the assets of the old company to the new one, but at the same time those assets have to come at the right price in order for that goal to be achievable, Woodhouse said.

If the new board decides to support a new DCA, they will have to work with the old board to deliver their proposal by the administrator’s deadline of 23 September.

A spokesperson for Sims Lockwood told the Star yesterday that a number of offers for Mardi Gras assets had been received by yesterday’s tender deadline but refused to give details.

ACON, Pride, Queer Screen and GLRL have been in negotiations with police and the state government in order to secure support for next season’s Mardi Gras.

Speaking on behalf of the coalition, ACON president Adrian Lovney told the Star: We have informed police that there will be some sort of parade on 1 March and we have booked the showgrounds -“ there will be a Mardi Gras party on 1 March.

Lovney also confirmed that the coalition has been continuing negotiations with the state and local governments.

Those negotiations focus on a range of issues, principally user-pays exemptions [for the parade route] and the possibility of striking a deal over [rental costs] for Mardi Gras’ premises at Erskineville, he said.

Those discussions are progressing well, but we’ve got a lot more talking to go.

Woodhouse said the new Mardi Gras board has a huge task ahead that needs to be done in a short space of time.

We need to talk to the administrators and form a view about the best way for us to proceed, including what might be a good price for us for Mardi Gras’ assets. We also have to look at the structure of the organisation and we need to be making some preliminary decisions about what the 2003 season might look like and what money we need for that season.

The new board will report to the community at the next Mardi Gras public forum at Petersham’s Metropolitan Community Church on 12 October.

Anyone interested in volunteering can register their interest via email at [email protected] Donations for new Mardi Gras can be forwarded to the new AIDS Trust Mardi Gras Fund.


Michael Woodhouse (pictured) is a director of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Community Publishing Ltd, publishers of Sydney Star Observer.

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