Article Title:Rebuilding Hero, one year at a time
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Published on:9th March 2004 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:163
Text:It's a festival marred by bad press and bad feeling; the people may be different but the name lives on. Did Hero 2004 manage to overcome the air of palpable cynicism and start to rebuild our festival? Hero 2004 has come to a close, and Brand Management Group spokesman Mike Binis is in a good mood. Not because the festival is over, although one imagines his relief at the easing of an intense workload. The BMG started with a blank canvas in November (it was impossible to start earlier because the debts incurred by earlier incarnations of Hero were still being settled using money raised under the guidance of the Hero 2003 Brand Management Group) and in three short months were tasked with putting together a Festival that would make everyone start to feel good about Hero again. Binis says this was the primary objective, and he feels it was achieved. “The feedback I got from the festival [was] ‘wow there were lots of really neat things going on',” he says. “The feedback on the party has been all positive, everybody thought it was great – one person even said that it was the best Hero party ever. I haven't heard of anything that fell flat.” The late start in planning did put stress on the members of the BMG, who were all new to the Festival. “I remember the first meeting where we sat around a whiteboard and said, ok, here's what we want to do, here's what we can do. We listed the things that were already set in stone and we only had three things,” he remembers. “But eventually the festival was absolutely loaded and we didn't have any more days to put things. I think probably everybody in the BMG knew people they could call on, and if everybody had two or three contacts, suddenly you had a dozen. The events came to us." Binis says that the need to start planning earlier was the biggest lesson learnt from this year's festival, and that the ball will be rolling for Hero 2005 within a few weeks. “Everybody on the BMG is going to continue next year. We had a debriefing last night to talk about the things which worked and didn't work, which will then go back to the trust board. They're having a workshop within the next few weeks, a two-day thing where they're going to formalise the new board so they can start planning for next year." So it seems like Hero 2004 fought the odds and managed to be a viable enterprise. But is there enough money to continue next year? “I would think there definitely should be,” Binis says. “The exact total isn't done... this year Hero was primarily about making people feel good, it wasn't about making money. There were only a couple of events that we definitely expected to get some money from, obviously the party was one of those. I don't have exact figures but the ticket sales were between seven and eight hundred, and we will get around $6 a ticket, which will go to seed next years festival." The new "umbrella format" of Hero, whereby the BMG approve individual events which are put together by community groups and individuals then run independently, worked well. Any events that were profitable nominated their own charities, leaving Hero right out of the transaction, a wise move considering the scandals of previous festivals. “It worked brilliantly. That was the smoothest part of the organising, being able to say, as a brand management group, we're the clearing house for ideas. You have ideas for events, you come to us, we decide whether it's worthwhile or not, then we turn it over to the Trust Board. If events are slow in coming, it's up to us to go out and find people, and everybody runs the event as their own event, with Hero branding." Despite the talk of rebuilding, there is a sense that Hero is moving forward rather than trying to get back to where it was – the face of Hero is changing. Absent from the festival again this year was the infamous parade, perhaps usurped by the ever-growing popularity of the Big Gay Out. “I'm beginning to agree with those who ask if we really need a parade,” says Binis. “The parade became a really expensive and tedious task to organise, and it was basically a show for the straights, whereas the Big Gay Out is a show for us." The final curtain is yet to fall on the Hero Parade, though. Talks are still continuing with the organisers of the AK05 festival to include it as part of their programme, but Binis says this is not finalised. If it does go ahead, it means the parade will be, like the AK festival, a biannual event. “Demand for the parade is probably diminishing, but I consistently get asked if there's going to be one,” he says. "People hear that the festival is on and say, ‘oh great, we need a parade'. They don't understand that the parade was only ever just one event within the festival." Binis says Hero is moving away from being centered around one big event, and awareness is growing that Hero is more than just a parade, or a party for that matter. There are plans to extend the use of the Hero brand beyond the two-week festival. “We have discussed keeping the two-week festival, but also having Hero events throughout the year which help seed the festival,” he explains. "So you might find next year Hero events that happen in May, April, July... and that's specifically to start to bring up the awareness and get seed money for the festival." Hero's money problems have dominated coverage of the festival for the last few years, so the BMG were particularly careful that everything this year was managed correctly. With the weight of bad history on their shoulders, the BMG were aware that both the public and the media were almost waiting for something to go wrong, and when word got out that a robbery had occurred at Staircase nightclub – the venue for the Hero Party – it didn't take long for phones to start ringing. “I got a call a few days after the party at 9pm from a NZ Herald reporter,” says Binis. “She asked me about Hero money going missing... I said that's news to me, let me get back to you. I spoke to Terry, the party organiser, who told me Staircase had been burgled, someone got into the Staircase bar take. It happened after the party, long after the Hero money was securely locked up, so it didn't affect our money at all. I don't know if it has been reported to the police or not." Binis says he wasn't surprised by the call. Any inkling of Hero money going missing and alarm bells ring – is it the same story all over again? Thankfully, this was not the case. "Which is the very reason why we wanted this festival to make everyone feel good. And I think it's been a feel-good event. I think people are feeling better about Hero, about the gay community, and about themselves." - 9th March 2004    
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