Every December sees the largest queer party on the African continent rock Cape Town. Now it’s thirteenth year, Mother City Queer Project (MCQP) is a highly anticipated event for many dedicated party-goers around the country.

Started by Andre Vorster, it’s since been sold to a group of new owners – Richard Gradner, Raymond Bloom, Egon Klein, Henry Shields and Sheryl Ozinsky (ex Cape Town Tourism chief) – who last year put on one of its most popular and successful incarnations.

According to Ozinsky, who says that, “right now, MCQP is a labour of love”, the party has not yet turned a profit; “Last year was the first event organised by the current owners. We lost about R250 000 but we organised the best MCQP ever. The party cost us R1m. This year, with the brand back where it belongs, we hope to sell 6 000 tickets which will just fall short of the cost of the party.”

Ozinsky says that sponsorship – “We are trying hard to attract some top South African brands” – may then help the event make a small profit. She concedes, however, that despite sponsors such as Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Grandwest Cape Culture and Heritage Foundation, the Dialogue Group and Stolichnaya Russian Vodka, “sponsorship comes in dribble by dribble. I think that in SA there is still shyness about being associated with a gay event.”

This year’s costume bash takes place – as it did last year – at Ratanga Junction, with the theme of Comic Strip. As its Creative Director, Peter Hayes – boasting a respected queer theatre background – is tasked with keeping MCQP fresh and evolving. He told us what to expect – both at this year’s party on 16 December and in the future – and about the challenges and joy of putting on an event on the scale of MCQP.

What does MCQP’s ‘creative director’ actually do?

I oversee the total design of the party, making sure all elements come together in one beautiful “Comic Strip”! I do all the writing for the website, the newsletters and blog. Liaise with artists and performers… generate the creativity that underpins the party.

How did you get this gig in the first place?

Right place at the right time? Andre Vorster had sold the party and the new owners needed someone with creative vision. Andre and I had know each other from when I was performing [the play] Get Hard in 94/95 – one of the original inspirations for MCQP – and he was very supportive of me. I also come with the right Queer credentials. Politics of gender and sexuality are very close to my heart and major theme of my work.

How does your theatre background help with MCQP?

In theatre I’ve worked as a director, producer, and designer (as well as writer and actor), so it’s given me a huge understanding in seeing a concept through. I also have a “sense of drama!” In a good way! Rhythm, revelation, magic… these are same elements that make for an extraordinary party.

What inspired you in coming up with this year’s theme?

A good theme has several elements: it must allow people to think literally and laterally, and hopefully hopefully it is, “pun intended.” I love that people can come as a comic book hero, and possibly I love the fact that many will simply ‘strip more’! For Comic Strip I have a couple of artists and an assistant who are passionate comic book fans. My knowledge is kind of limited. I mean I know about them spending months in post-production reducing the size of the latest Superman’s bulge, but I know purists want a bit more depth, and I would have been happy with the bulge.

Why Ratanga Junction again? Does this reflect a lack of imagination?

The party has not moved every year. There were four or five at the River Club. We looked at several other venues but few have the facilities of Ratanga and none have been as popular.

Do you really think MCQP can grow into an international attraction?

The party is easily of the calibre of any of the major [international] circuit parties. The party already attracts significant interest from overseas visitors, and this will grow as MCQP grows and offers more. This year, ‘Comic Stripped the After Party’ is a wild and edgy addition and next year there will be more. The aim is develop MCQP into at least a week of celebration, where the party will become the cherry on pretty delicious banana split!

We are a rather jaded and fickle lot. How do you stop the party from becoming stale?

MCQP is blessed in having an incredibly loyal core of about 2 000 party goers who are there (almost) every time! Many have been to every MCQP party since ‘94. And because the party has always attracted the widest age demographic of any party I’ve ever been to in South Africa, it means that partygoers don’t feel that it has a sell-by-date. The new theme each year means that the party is always fresh and all elements are re-designed!

I love a party where all my friends – gay, straight, queer, young and old, black, white – can celebrate life together!

What will be different this year from previous events?

We don’t try to totally re-invent the party each year. There are some elements that people expect – demand in fact! So yes there will be the arrival stage as usual; seven themed dance floors; different performers – in line with the theme; different décor; different rhythm; a real cocktail bar, as every Gotham City needs; and of course the fabulous party people will have created different costumes. We learnt a lot and there are things we can improve on. For instance, this year the main dance floor will be in front of the stage, the area that was used for chilling and performance last year. It’s going to be a major improvement for all.

MCQP is not billed as a gay party per se – but rather as a very inclusive one. Are you not selling out your gay audience?

In all its history, the party has only ever been sold as Queer. Never only as a “gay party.” It’s MCQP not MCGP! Do you know that last year not one, let me repeat, not one of the volunteers was gay? Most of the artists were straight too, or let me rephrase that, they are queer: they share in an open hearted headspace where everyone who has ever walked on the fringes and margins can celebrate their own uniqueness. Speaking for myself, and not on behalf on MCQP, I don’t identify as gay. It’s a lifestyle-marketing-concept of disconnect that I don’t want to subscribe to. It’s time for all of us to un-label. But if you must, right now, I’m a ‘big ‘mo’!

Will the straights ever take over MCQP?

No! The party would die if they did. The percentage of straights at the party may increase but they come because it’s queer, because it’s a night where they can revel in their multidimensional selves; maybe kiss someone of the same gender; flirt a little at least, be more. And for me, I love a party where all my friends, gay, straight, queer, young and old, black, white – it doesn’t fucking matter – can celebrate life together!

What are your thoughts on the Cape Town gay club scene?

It’s surprisingly small for the supposed gay capital of Africa!

Do you do any research by going to big parties overseas?

I’m privileged to travel – a lot! This is on my own steam, not linked to MCQP; and I do take in a huge amount of culture, in all fields. This is imperative for multi-dimensional creativity – to me anyway. Last year and in ‘04 I was at Burning Man one of the hottest festivals in the world, and it has been hugely inspirational in the direction that I’m pushing MCQP. This year, before my 10 day Tantric Sex/Erotic Touch workshop,

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