Motion proposed to hand over Mardi Gras Parade and Fair Day to City of Sydney
A controversial proposal to hand over control of the Mardi Gras Parade to the City of Sydney will be put to a vote to Sydney Mardi Gras members at its upcoming AGM in August.
The proposal will also cede operational control of Mardi Gras Fair Day to the council.
The motion, spearheaded by Mardi Gras members David Imrie and Josh Keech, is being put forward amid concerns of Sydney Mardi Gras’ future, propelled by recent motions surrounding the organisation’s intellectual property and further fuelled by news the organisation will post a loss for last financial year.
A supporting statement for the motion, obtained by SX, outlines how the proposal will address the outdated and unsustainable business model which sees Sydney Mardi Gras “run a number of profit-making parties and events in order to pay for a number of not-for-profit community-based events”.
This model, which is impacted by factors such as rising costs in production, increasing competition and a reduction in attendees to dance parties, is largely to blame for Sydney Mardi Gras’ ongoing decline.
While Sydney Mardi Gras made a modest profit of $45,693 last year, it has operated at a loss for three consecutive years, peaking in 2010 with a deficit of $576,626. It is expected the organisation will post a loss for the 2014 season in the order of $177,000.
“SGLMG has been slowly dying for at least 4 years,” the statement read. “This is not the fault of any individual or group of directors, staff or volunteers, but is a reality of the model that we use to make a profit.”
The proposal states City of Sydney is better placed to manage and operate these two key events.
“The City of Sydney has demonstrated its ability to deliver world-class, high quality and sustainable community events. From New Year’s Eve to the Chinese New Year, it has shown that it has a genuine interest to celebrate diversity in our City and the resources to provide to these events.
“These motions are not about losing the intent or objectives of Mardi Gras. Through the wording of the motions we, the members, have the ability to direct the Board to ensure that, regardless of who runs our precious, spectacular show, we can ensure that Mardi Gras remains.”
The motion includes provisions ensuring that, should the City of Sydney take over, the objectives of Fair Day and Parade will always be in accordance with Sydney Mardi Gras’ constitution.
It also states that Sydney Mardi Gras Board will serve as an “advisory board” to the City of Sydney and that two additional positions on the Sydney Mardi Gras Board will be made available to the City of Sydney.
The supporting statement highlights how the proposal can open up new opportunities for Sydney Mardi Gras to rethink its operational structure, which could have positive flow-on effects.
“Such a proposal could see Mardi Gras Arts running the Party, and therefore making tickets tax-deductible,” the statement read.
“Further, without relying so heavily on a profit from the Party, we could see a significant reduction in ticket prices which, in turn would enable more people to attend the Party (including young people, and those simply priced out of the ability to attend)."
The proposal could also pave the way for Sydney Mardi Gras to establish a community grants program.
“It is not unreasonable to expect that over time, and due to government reform, the community sector will need to become less reliant on government grants.
“This has the potential to impact on our community through the closing of programs and making it harder for us to continue our fight for equality.
“The proposal also enables Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Ltd to provide a sustainable future for programs that tackle important issues such as domestic violence, discrimination, education, mental health, sexual health, general health and equality.”
The supporting statement concedes that the proposal was “purposely controversial”.
“This is a radical shift from the general operations of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Ltd, but this is a worthy conversation,” it read.
“We were told at the last General Meeting that Mardi Gras could run for two more years at a loss. Based on the previous years, it would be unlikely that we would run at a profit for two consecutive years. Basically we are close to liquidation, whether it be in two years, three years or four.
“As a community, we know that less people are going to the Party, and less people are engaged in Mardi Gras. This motion has the ability to change things, and turn the Party into a genuine community event again.
“This is our opportunity to shift the way that Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Ltd operates, and will ensure its long and successful future.”
A City of Sydney spokeswoman told SX the council has not received a formal request from Mardi Gras to take over the Parade or Fair Day.
“For many years the City of Sydney has played an important supporting role, providing cash and value in-kind sponsorship assistance to Mardi Gras, and consistently championing the festival.
"In 2013 and 2014 the City provided $400,000 in cash sponsorship and $252,700 of in-kind support for venue hire, park hire and banner pole use.
“The future of Mardi Gras is a decision for its Board and Members. The City has not received a formal request from Mardi Gras to take over the festival operations.”