Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras confirms at least $90k loss

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras confirms at least $90k loss
Image: One of the dance floors from the Mardi Gras party 2015 (PHOTO: Ann-Marie Calilhanna; Star Observer)

IN what could be good news for clubbers, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has flagged cutting the price of Party tickets to attract more punters as part of an effort to turn round a loss of at least $90,000 on the most recent season.

However, a proposal being actively discussed within Mardi Gras would see the number of complimentary Party tickets drastically cut in order to rein in costs.

Mardi Gras has also confirmed they plan to leave their Oxford St headquarters, in the heart of the LGBTI-centric neighbourhood of Darlinghurst, for cheaper digs elsewhere.

Last year the organisation blamed poor Party tickets for a shortfall of $178,000, a result which then co-chair Siri Khommndhal told the Star Observer was “unacceptable” and that in 2015, “we must make a profit”.

Mardi Gras treasurer Damian Hodgkinson has now confirmed to the Star Observer that the organisation made a preliminary year-on-year loss of $91,000 for 2015.

The final audited loss, expected to be released in July, will be higher due to Mardi Gras adjusting its financial reporting year to end in June, meaning three extra months of wages will be included in 2015’s figures.

While still a deficit, the comparable result is a little less than half last year’s loss and beat internal expectations.

“Whether we make a deficit or surplus isn’t the whole story,” said Hodgkinson, who said Mardi Gras donated around $55,000 to community groups including free tickets.

“It’s probably more significant that the general health of the company is actually not too bad.”

While Fair Day and Parade, both of which attract significant sponsorship, were in the black, Hodgkinson said ticketed events remained in the red.

“Overall tickets sales were going down while sponsorship is going up and our best attended events are free and sponsors love it,” he said.

While sponsorship dollars increased, the organisation suffered from Gaydar’s withdrawal from the festival.

Party costs were trimmed in 2015 with less scenic purchased in advance and the axing of the Dome venue while a ticket price cut boosted numbers to near capacity while maintaining income.

“We dropped prices by 10 per cent and we’re looking to drop them again,” said Hodgkinson, who said this year’s Party was more successful than 2014’s.

But complimentary tickets — which in 2015 had a total face value of $250,000 and are often used by community groups as fundraising tools — might be scarcer in the future.

“We think we’ve devalued our event by giving away so many freebies,” Hodgkinson said.

“It’s important but we will rethink the amount we give away.”

Despite the result, which means Mardi Gras has now made losses in the five of the last six years, Hodgkinson said he was expecting a profit of around $80,000 in 2016.

A reduction in staff costs of around $65,000 would start to be felt in the coming year while at least $20,000 would be saved from shuttering the organisation’s Oxford St base and co-locating the office with a permanent workshop.

Hodgkinson said two possible locations for a new home had been found.

He said that while both were in the “inner city”, they were not “in a traditional area” as space is needed “to get a two tonne truck in the building”.

The decision turns the clock back to when both Mardi Gras’ office and workshop were based in Petersham in Sydney’s inner west.

A new IT system, to be implemented in the next financial year, will set the organisation back an estimated $50,000 although Hodgkinson said it would lead to annual savings of around $45,000.

He said this has been a hard year of change but profits should become the norm if the festival remained popular.

Hodgkinson added that a profit of around $250,000 a year was feasible: “That’s what Mardi Gras should be able to generate and that’s our target but that’s not going to happen next year.”

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28 responses to “Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras confirms at least $90k loss”

  1. “The party” “The party” “The party” I am so fed up with having the party as the main focus point for Mardigras, I belive it is shallow to think like this. Emphasise more on events to do with Gay history and Gay icons (and no I am not talking about a meet and greet with porn stars). I would like to see more active members in the community (like activists, popular drag queens etc) be invited to conduct talks and shows etc meow! Purrrr….

  2. It’s been run by incompetent ego driven people for the last 5 years. Every year it’s a loss and every year they say they will change. The model is broken and the management don’t know how to fix it or why the organization exists.

  3. It is all Tony Abbott’s fault – he is clearly to blame for not attracting tourists – by still keeping or having his Howard-era 2004 ban on gay marriage right here in Australia!

  4. I didnt go to the mardi gras this year and i will not be going to the mardi gras next year. Im not obligated to just because im gay. And the so-called gay community needs to stop acting like im obligated to. Or not only will i not go, I’ll do a rain dance on the day.

  5. Can we replace the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with Marriage Equality? Time for a real hard change Australia!

  6. What a joke. A so called community organisation but the staff only care about jobs for thier mates. There are so many areas that the organisation over pay for goods and services, if they implement the stringent procurement practices used in the private sector they would
    Obtain a lot better value instead of just getting contractors so just do the same as last time for more money. It’s a disgrace.

    • You sound like fun, I’m sure the Party would be a funner place if you were there… I’ve been to Mardi Gras party ever year since 2009 and I’ve had the time of my life, so has every person I’ve known to go.

    • It’s fun where ever we go. But I also want the prices lowered so a great number of people can access it. I’m not concerned about the price for my self just our brothers, sisters and yet to decide given the opportunity to be able to attend. We need to remember the grass roots. More people mean more money. More inclusive means if it’s cheaper for me I’ll spend more for those others who can just scrape to get in if it is lower. So I stand by my view so far. The lock outs are disruptive to my socialization also and prices should not determine where people go. It’s our communities celebration of diversity. That also includes the disadvantaged members.

    • Not arguing that the price doesn’t need to be lowered… Arguing that your reasoning is ridiculous. Mardi Gras does an insane amount for the disadvantaged

  7. I am gobsmacked that $250,000 in complimentary tickets were issued to the 2015 Party. I agree that the issuing of complimentary tickets needs to be curled back dramatically. A $91,000 loss could have been a significant profit if not so many complimentary tickets had been issued.

  8. Ticket prices need to fall. They were crazy high in the 90s and 2000s let alone now. Mardi Gras can amd will survive but it needs to make changes.