MIDSUMMA festival manager Monique Thorpe has resigned unexpectedly from her role at the helm of one of the country’s largest LGBTI events, but the board has assured financial security for the 2015 festival.

The change was announced today after Thorpe gave her resignation last week, with Tennille Mosiel beginning in the role of acting festival director immediately, stepping down from her position serving on the Midsumma board for just over one year.

Thorpe has run two Midsumma festivals, overseeing the overall growth of the event, its high-profile return to Alexandra Gardens, the incorporation of Pride March Victoria into the organisation and the recent launch of the Midwinta Festival.

“It is with great sadness that I leave the Midsumma family, however I’m taking this opportunity after setting the foundations for the 2015 Festival, to re-enter the ‘real world’ outside of Midsumma,” Thorpe said.

“I am leaving a very competent and passionate team at the helm and have every confidence in them.”

She identified the move to Alexandra Gardens and the management of Midsumma’s 25th anniversary festival as highlights of her time in the role.

Midsumma chair Aaron Hockley said Thorpe would be missed, but argued in support of Moisel’s “extensive experience in operations and management” and in her familiarity with the festival.

“Having been on the board for over a year and having been actively involved in a number of Midsumma events, Tennille is very familiar with the organisation, its stakeholders and its objectives,” he said.

While there was an expectation from the board Midsumma 2015 would be Thorpe’s last, her sudden departure left the organisation with less time than expected to find a replacement.

The internal appointment places significant responsibility in the hands of the new acting festival director, but Hockley told the Star Observer the unexpected timing of Thorpe’s resignation meant there wasn’t enough time to advertise publicly to fill the appointment.

“The reality is that the festival really gets locked in over the next two months — first we’d have to create an advertisement, then we’d have to wait and leave time for people to apply, then we’d have to interview, then we would have to allow them to resign from their own position,” he said.

“That might happen by Christmas, and then they really wouldn’t add any value.”

Hockley said the day-to-day management activities of the festival director have previously made it difficult for a focus on long-term planning around both delivery of the festival and the financial stability of the organisation.

Moisel’s interim appointment will include a focus on such long-term planning, and could eventually lead to changes to the festival director role, or even the creation of a new role.

Hockey said the changes are unlikely to affect the financial viability of Midsumma 2015, but admitted funding had yet to be finalised from the City of Melbourne, the festival’s largest backer.

While the City of Melbourne funding application had been submitted prior to Thorpe’s resignation, this year’s festival was the final year of a triennial funding arrangement — a decision on whether the funding will be renewed for another three years is expected next month.

“I don’t think [Thorpe’s resignation] will have an impact,” Hockley told the Star Observer.

“I think what’s important is that we get someone on board as soon as possible who can look at the long-term funding stream. That’s part of the reason the board isn’t rushing out to find someone immediately.”

A significant amount of funding for the 2015 festival has already been locked in, with NAB staying on as a major sponsor and Yarra Trams continuing to provide substantial in-kind sponsorship.

Other notable corporate supporters of next year’s festival include Seek, iSelect and training and education company Vocation, while Telstra will downgrade its support slightly from major sponsor status to become Midsumma’s technology partner.

(Photo credit: Ari Neubauer; Star Observer)

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