Ian McMahon talks Royal Navy & MCQP Jozi

Ian McMahon

Ian McMahon

Cape Town’s annual iconic Mother City Queer Project (MCQP) costume mega party is back this weekend for its 21st outing. The theme is ‘Royal Navy’ and the bash will see 112 DJs and performers entertain thousands of revellers.

MCQP Event Director Ian McMahon spoke to us about the event’s anniversary, plans to host an MCQP in Jozi, and what you can expect this Saturday.

Congrats Ian! MCQP is 21 this year. How does it feel to have reached such a momentous occasion?

It’s always a great occasion when an event reaches this milestone. Very few events have the ability to entertain and excite people for such a long period of time. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to direct the event for the last couple of years, and I’m excited for what lies ahead.

Is MCQP just a big party or do you think it represents something more – and if so, what is that for you?

MCQP is unashamedly a big party. It’s all about letting your hair hang loose. I guess in this way it represents, to some people, fun and happiness. We always host MCQP in December, just before the festive season, when people have had just about enough of work, and need a break from all the stress related to it.

You joined MCQP in 2008. What do you think you’ve brought to the event since then?

The last couple of years we’ve managed to welcome a bigger and more varied group of people to MCQP, making it a truly inclusive event. MCQP started out as a gay event in 1994. Today most of the party-goers are straight. Just under 30% of party-goers are from outside Cape Town. It’s not only a showcase of Cape Town’s creative spirit, but also a platform for people from all over South Africa and from other parts of the world to meet and have fun.

Where do you see MCQP going into the next 21 years?

This is only the beginning of great things to come. We’re looking forward to bringing MCQP to other parts of South Africa and we’re also planning projects that will allow us to help Capetonians plan their dress-up parties.

Do you think it’s gotten as big as it can get – or can it get bigger?

There is always room for growth. There are still a lot of people who have yet to experience the fun and excitement of MCQP.

Do you feel pressure every year to top the previous year?

Definitely. I would be worried if I don’t worry about topping the previous year’s party. MCQP happens only once a year. Most people go to a lot of trouble to put together their costumes and it is important that we make it a memorable experience.

How do you decide on each year’s theme?

The last couple of years I compiled a list of about five options and then discussed it with a group of people, before I made the final decision. This year, in the spirit of Cape Town being the World Design Capital, we decided to involve the AAA School of Advertising. We asked a group of 90 students to propose a theme and design elements for the party.

What have been your favourite MCQP themes in previous years?

I truly like all the themes we’ve presented, and I wouldn’t have done so if I didn’t. Some themes that stand out include ‘The Matric Dance’ at a high school to ‘The Wedding’ at a military base (The Castle of Good Hope). The ‘Flower Power’ party also stands out, as MCQP was the first non-sporting and non-religious event at the then-brand-new Cape Town Stadium.

Have you ever considered doing a Joburg MCQP?

I don’t know when and where yet, but it’s in the pipeline. People, everywhere, want to have fun. I believe we can make it work. It’s been amazing to see and experience the support we get from people outside Cape Town.

Do you feel that MCQP still remains a predominantly “queer” event or has it gone mainstream?

I don’t know if mainstream is the correct word – not everybody believes in dressing up in costume and having fun, dancing to music – but, MCQP is definitely not a gay event anymore. It’s a party for everyone. Most party-goers are actually straight. It will however always be queer or eccentric…

What’s the most fun part of putting together the event – and what’s the worse?

I love, an hour or two into the party, sitting back for a few seconds to look at all the people in their costumes, dancing, talking, smiling and having fun. The worst part of it must be those few minutes before we open the gate, waiting on the fire inspector to give us the go-ahead.

Everyone’s a critic thanks to social media these days. Do you pay attention to what people say about the event?

It doesn’t matter where it is expressed; I believe every opinion is valid – especially to, at least, the person who expresses it. People’s opinions are based on their experiences, perceptions and feelings and most of these are out of my control. I’m a curious person and want to know what people think and how they feel and why they do so. But, I also know that it is impossible to keep each and every person happy.

What element is most exciting for you about this year’s MCQP?

I’m very excited about hosting such a talented group of performers. We’re so lucky to work with some of South Africa’s best acts. It’s also the first time that we are hosting a ladies only floor.

The venue. Why did you choose it and why?

The Cape Town City Hall is majestic, impressive and regal and works really well with our Royal Navy theme. More importantly, it is also here where Tata Madiba made his first public speech, after spending 27 years in prison.

Your Royal Navy costume. What will you be going as this year?

Now that will have to stay a secret, until Saturday.

MCQP Royal Navy takes place on Saturday 20 December at the Cape Town City Hall and adjacent Grand Parade. Tickets can be purchased from www.mcqp.co.za.

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