President's Report: 2007
Midsumma 2007 was well received by Melbourne's gay and lesbian communities, and there has been consistently encouraging feedback about the quality of events and program.
The Festival's 'book-end' events, Opening Night and Carnival, were of exceptional calibre this year, thanks to the quality of their respective venues, the programming teams and the continued support of the community, who turned out in force.
The 2007 program was busting at the seams with over 110 queers arts, cultural and community events. Program highlights included iOTA and the Beauty Queens (Opening Night), The Tonight Show with Wes Snelling at BMW Edge (Opening Night), the solo exhibition of one of Australia's most innovative and influential queer artists Juan Davila at the National Gallery of Victoria, the Union House Theatre co-production of Rage Boy at the Malthouse Theatre, Novel Conversations IV, We Built This Rainbow City at ArtPlay and the Over & Out seniors photographic exhibition at Gasworks.
This year we also saw Gasworks Arts Park and The Butterfly Club become Festival Hubs, offering an impressive and comprehensive local program of queer comedy, cabaret, performance art and exhibitions. We extend our sincere thanks to Crusader and his team from Gasworks and to David, Neville and the boys from The Butterfly Club for their passionate contribution to Festival.
Midsumma's visual arts program also remains strong with City of Melbourne, 'Queer City' and City of Yarra's 'Yarra Arts' programs continuing to impress with innovative displays of diverse artistic practice.
I take this opportunity to also thank the many hundreds of volunteers, artists, performers, producers, directors and community groups who delivered an ever-impressive program of community produced events. It is through these exhibitions, performances and events that the talent, diversity and true depth of culture within our community are showcased. This is truly your Festival.
Of course, there was also time for revelry, with Zinc Sunset Party, Summa Cruise and T-Dance offering unique party experiences for those whose art is made on the dance floor.
Overwhelmingly, the response from the community this year has been as strong or stronger than at any time in the past, and we look forward to making Midsumma events bigger and better for our 20th year in 2008.
A team effort
Vision does not happen in a vacuum, and Midsumma continues to enjoy and benefit from the challenging discussion and dialogue we have with the many elements of Melbourne's GLBTI community who are the constituents of the Festival.
Public partners are also vital to Midsumma. The 2007 Festival represented the second of three years in which Midsumma is funded under triennial relationship with City of Melbourne. Anyone who witnessed the warmth and affection with which City of Melbourne was represented at Midsumma events by Lord Mayor John So, Deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer, their Council colleagues and staff, saw how strong the partnership has become. We look forward to a continuing vitality in our contribution to the City of Melbourne's arts and major events program.
We are also greatly indebted to the Cities of Yarra and Port Phillip for their ongoing support. These councils reflect the vibrancy of their local queer communities and remain a critical part of Midsumma's strategy to stay connected to local scenes, local venues and local personalities. We are also delighted to confirm the commencement of triennial funding with the City of Yarra in 2007.
The Festival's other financial supporters were again an important part of the Festival's operations. We greatly value these continued and new relationships, We extend of sincere thanks to:
Through our co-operative marketing arrangement with Tourism Victoria, the festival has enjoyed considerable success in attracting visitors to Melbourne. This year, we conducted research to profile visitors, their experience of Midsumma and the economic contribution they made to Victoria in the process. While the final results are being collated, the preliminary data indicates a thriving market of inbound visitors who see Midsumma as an exciting travel destination.
With regard to the Festival's staffing, there has been a deal of turnover this year, as well as members of the Board who are retiring at this meeting. In part the turnover of sales and sponsorship staff is a reflection of the more challenging environment all festivals are faced with, as media spend fragments and corporate sponsorship becomes more difficult to secure. This is an area of renewed board focus for the 2008 festival.
I take this opportunity to thank Jarrod Hughes, our outstanding General Manager. Since his appointment in September 2006, Jarrod has made a wonderful contribution to the Festival and has quickly demonstrated his commitment to quality outcomes. Jarrod has been particularly valuable to Midsumma through his intimate knowledge of our complex and sometimes challenging stakeholder environment, and his focus on this area is already bearing fruit in terms of the quality of our relationships.
The extended Midsumma team - office staff, Festival-time contractors and community volunteers - have been the Festival's greatest asset this year and I take this opportunity to thank them on behalf of the Board and the Members for their hard work, commitment, capability and generosity of spirit.
I would also like to thank Midsumma's Patrons, whose generous contributions make our lives much brighter. The Board will be focusing future efforts to show our appreciation of our Patrons support.
You will find following the Festival's Financial Statements for the year ended 31 March 2007. The bottom line is that Midsumma posts a loss this year of $39,419.00.
We are, of course, disappointed by this result. While a Festival's outcomes are determined by a wide array of controllable and uncontrollable factors, I would specifically draw your attention to the following factors that contributed to the operations of the Festival in the past year:
- The turnover of sponsorship sales staff and the continuing difficulty of finding and retaining qualified, committed staff at the salary we offer
- Operational problems in the food and beverage arrangements at Carnival and the disappointing performance of the Festival's appointed service provider Artistic Catering meant that Carnival income - normally a strong performer in Midsumma's revenue mix, fell well short of what the Board had judged as a conservative projection
- Carnival cost blowouts associated with stage-3 water restrictions at Treasury Gardens and a number of unforeseeable regulatory burdens to do with the management of that event.
In responding to these challenges, your Board is developing strategies to address the impact on our costs and to prepare for such adverse conditions in the future immediate actions include:
- The decision to hold Carnival in Alexandra Gardens in 2008 with a reduced cost base
- The decision to hold Carnival on a Saturday (9 February 2008) rather than a Sunday, to minimise dilution of audience due to a traditional overlap with St Kilda Festival
- A review of sponsorship procurement arrangements, with a greater emphasis on both input from the General Manager and the interviewing of outsourced sponsorship agencies
- Aggressive and early sales activity to secure returning and new sponsors and Guide advertisers Preparation for a major review of Carnival catering arrangements
Through the success of previous festivals, Midsumma has sufficient cash reserves to cover the operating shortfall for the time being. The Board's commitment to prudent financial management, in the context of both difficult circumstances and the growing expectations of our community, is undiminished. The landscape of festivals within Victoria shows challenges in other audience markets, with other arts festivals posting losses in recent periods. A commitment to ensure the scale of various Midsumma produced events is appropriate for the tighter fiscal operating environment we face is given here this evening.
A personal thanks from me to my board colleagues this year - Amy Bagshaw, Vaughan Barker, Monique Schafter, Tim Dart, Sasha Cunningham, Marcus Keating, Ronit Fazekas, Danny Michell, Mark Hooke, David Lawson and Lisa Watts. The passion and commitment - not to mention hours - that they have offered this year is simultaneously humbling and inspiring, and it is a pleasure to work with people of such insight and good humour.
Thank you also to the members of the Programming, Marketing, Major Events and Visual Arts working groups, whose contribution of time and effort means so much to the delivery of this festival.
The renewed energy and enthusiasm of the Festival team is already palpable, and we look forward to a series of planning workshops over the next three months, both to prepare for our 20th anniversary in 2008 and to create our longer-term vision.
In the meantime, we will be focusing on our core strengths - program development, events, fundraising, marketing and sponsorship - with a renewed emphasis on listening to and being relevant to the community that gave birth to us.
Which brings me to my final thanks - to you - for being a Member of the Festival. The more members we have, and the more vocal and active they are, the better Midsumma will be. In taking the time to be part of the Midsumma family, you are proving that, and we are grateful.
Please mark Friday 18 January 2008 for Midsumma's Opening Night at Federation Square in your diaries now. See you there!