Delivering year after year – with Kirk Muddle

By Alexandria Utting

Hosting an event for the second year running can be a daunting task. Dealing with repeat patrons expectations, funding and volunteers can be difficult; just ask Kirk Muddle.

On the eve of Sydney’s 34th annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, we spoke to past board member Mr Muddle, who gave us some insight into how Mardi Gras continues to deliver year after year and some tips on how you can do the same.

Get the right funding

The most important element to an annual event is funding.

Mr Muddle’s role on the Mardi Gras board began when the festival was two years out of receivership.  It’s a daunting task to run a festival when it is at “base survival mode,” he said. However, working with limited funds doesn’t mean your event should be limited too.

Today, Mardi Gras uses a bucket donation system where patrons are asked to donate a chosen sum when entering to the festival. Mr Muddle says it is essential your patrons “feel comfortable with what they are being asked to do” in regards to donations. A bucket donation can be a great way to recoup funds without asking a lot of punters.

If you are obtaining corporate sponsorship, detail what you and your sponsors are getting out of the arrangement at the outset. Most often, this will be exposure for the sponsor in exchange for their support. Mr Muddle says do not allow competing sponsors to become involved as it may jeopardize your chances of working with a sponsor in the future.

“Treat sponsors like gold and don’t let a small publishing company, for example, come in when you have already signed with another,” Mr Muddle said.

Working with sponsors that align with the core beliefs has been key to Mardi Gras success. A sponsor’s representation should be just as important as the funding you are receiving.

Ask your punters for feedback

Asking participants what they thought of the festival will ensure no mistakes are repeated in the future.
Mardi Gras has been able to bounce back from its period of receivership through input from the community and survey responses from patrons.
“We reviewed the way that we ran events by getting feedback from regular goers,” Mr Muddle said.

“You would be surprised what comes back”.

Team with a theme

Being unique is really important. Keeping Mardi Gras fresh year after year has come down to it’s many great themes.

“Agendas put a bit more spirit and interest in a festival, but if you get the theme wrong things can go very badly,” Mr Muddle said.

Assigning an artistic director is a must.

“When you don’t have artistic direction you can loose your way very easily,” Mr Muddle said.

Get volunteers involved

Just like sponsorship, volunteers should have a vested interest in the festival. The key to finding people who are keen to be involved year after year is to really try and just keep them happy says Mr Muddle.

This means making sure volunteers are briefed properly on the day and ensuring whatever they need is provided for. This might simply be bottled water and sunscreen or a more personal touch like a thank you note or gift.

Kirk Muddle’s top festival tips:

1. Do as much event planning as possible.
2. Take into account what your core group of attendees would like and what they wouldn’t.
3. Make sure your sponsors are well cared for.
4. Whatever time you think it is going to take, double it.
5. Remember, “you’re never going to satisfy everyone”.