Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Changes to the Mardi Gras

Today's big news was the changes for Mardi Gras starting in 2010.
(Picture is me Allan Alex and Gus in the Kylie Float 2007.)
Mardi Gras have announced bold changes to their format in 2010 which includes an even shorter festival and the splitting of Parade and Party, which will now run on separate weekends. They’ve also announced the theme for 2010 – Mardi Gras’ History of the World.
The festival will now run for two weeks which will launch with Fair Day on Sunday 21st February in Victoria Park, build to Mardi Gras Parade in the middle of the season, and will end with Party.
Mardi Gras Parade will still take place on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst and Mardi Gras will still be hosting a post-Parade event that night. Details of this event are yet to be announced.
Harbour Party will be back as well, and will take place on Sunday after Parade, making it more of a recovery party.
The 2010 season theme, Mardi Gras’ History of the World, aims to explore gay people’s stories through the ages and provide a queer take on some of the great moments and figures of history. The theme will run throughout Mardi Gras’ key events – Fair Day, Harbour ‘10, Parade and Mardi Gras Party.
“2009 was always going to be a pivotal year for us after the thirtieth anniversary in 2008,” said Chair David Imrie in a statement. “We got back on TV, secured state government funding, grew the Parade, brought in bigger acts, with Joan Rivers and Paul Oakenfold and certainly got more media attention. In 2010 we will continue this growth with a punchier format, delivering two weeks of stunning arts and entertainment.”
Danielle Harvey, Festival Executive Producer, is pleased with the now even shorter Festival format.
“A review of major arts festivals around the world showed they were typically two week festivals. By moving to two weeks we will be able to create a much more impactful experience for both local and international audiences.”
Anna McInerney, the CEO of New Mardi Gras, says that the changes are more in keeping with other major festival type events around the world.
“Rio and New Orleans are not just a single parade – though they have that as their core. They encompass many small parades and parties and go on for days. That is what we want to bring to Sydney at Mardi Gras and in particular that final week.”
McInerney went on to say that the theme allows for both celebration and political statements.
“It’s important that the themes we choose can support both these elements. Mardi Gras’ History of the World will of course be a very tongue-in-cheek and colourful exploration of the past, but it will also find room for us to honour some great people and mark things that we as a community need to remember, like Stonewall or the pink triangle victims of the Nazi concentration camps.”
2010 Mardi Gras season dates are as follows:Mardi Gras Launch and Fair Day- February 21Mardi Gras Parade – February 27Harbour ‘10 – February 28Mardi Gras Party – March 6.
COVERUP was the headline
The splitting of Mardi Gras Parade and Party has less to do with tired marchers, and more to do with pressure from commercial partners and an administrative oversight, according to former Mardi Gras President Richard Cobden.
“The change was driven by an agreement with Atlantis Cruises, which obliged New Mardi Gras to move the Parade to the last Saturday in February, while the standing booking for the RHI/Hordern is the first Saturday in March,” Cobden told Same Same.
“Apparently an attempt was made by New Mardi Gras to move the Party date to the Parade date but Playbill, who control the Showground/Fox venues, rejected it on the basis that the venue was already booked for a Gift Fair. In other words, the separated dates were the result of a combination of an undisclosed commercial obligation and a plain and simple oversight. Any suggestion that it is by design is an attempt to cover it up.”
The changes have caused great debate – some have embraced the change, others have cited the impact it will have on many interstate and overseas tourists who will not be able to attend both Parade and Party.
“The Parade and Party are two inseparable events. It’s like having a wedding one week and the reception the next week!” says Cobden.
Cobden would not reveal his source, but said that the person is ‘highly placed’, the information is credible, and that he heard it six weeks ago.
When the changes were first announced New Mardi Gras issued a statement outlining that the decision to split Parade and Party was based on “research through focus groups and surveys” which suggested they experiment with the format, an awareness of “large numbers of Parade participants [who] don’t make it to the Party [because they] are simply too tired” and to create “a longer buzz”.
In addition to the Party on March 6, Mardi Gras also have plans to hold a post-Parade event as well, which seems to have further confused the issue.
When Same Same asked David Imrie, Chair of New Mardi Gras whether the claims were true, we were told that Mardi Gras is not in a position to share details of conversations with its commercial partners, nor could it speak on their behalf.
Imrie denied that there was any scheduling mistake. “The planning was deliberate and strategic. There was no oversight, no error.”
We were also referred back to the original press release and told that ‘many have celebrated the new format, some have not’.
“Some have also theorised as to the ‘real reasons’ we have redesigned the Festival,” said Imrie. “These ‘real reasons’ are quite simple – the desire to evolve and change, to create energy and vibrancy, and to ensure the prosperity of Mardi Gras in the future.”
In an interview with Sydney Star Observer this week Imrie could not account for why passengers booked on the Atlantis cruise were not told of the split events, given that the two organisations have been working so closely together.
“Atlantis have been aware of our programming and the dates we booked the venue for the party. So I’m not sure how that’s occurred,” said Imrie.
As of today Atlantis Cruises’ website still incorrectly claims that they’ve “worked closely with Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to perfectly coordinate [their] schedules” and that guests will “arrive in Sydney the same day as the famous Mardi Gras Parade and Party”.

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