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CBD Melbourne: Fashion festival to take off despite Virgin grounding

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“We wish them well as they enter a new chapter of operation,” he wrote to supporters, in a rather euphemistic reframing of the airline’s collapse into administration and tumultuous sales process.

But back to the event formerly known as VAMFF, which this year featured comedian Celeste Barber, ABC chair Ita Buttrose and MasterChef contestant Poh Ling Yeow walking the catwalk before it shut down early on the same day in March – Friday 13th – that the Grand Prix was cancelled.

It has been a tough year for VAMFF, back in January chief executive Graeme Lewsey stepped aside when he was diagnosed with neck cancer. He is said to be recovering well.

Briskin and acting chief executive Yolanda Finch will have their hands full in the coming months, grappling with the same issues bedevilling many cultural events reliant on airlines and hotels for cash sponsorship and in kind support to transport and accommodate guests.

The festival is yet to replace former sponsor Mercedes, which pulled out prior to last year’s event, resulting in fashion editors, accustomed to a sleek black runabout at their beck and call, having to settle for Uber vouchers. Some were even whispered to have jumped on a tram to beat city traffic.

CUP CONSULTATIONS

In the events world the $65 million question remains – what will become of the Melbourne Cup.

Marquee sponsor James Kennedy from watch retailer Kennedy says his multimillion-dollar sponsorship remains in place for the spring carnival. Sources close to the Victoria Racing Club say its partnerships team is working overtime to organise a carnival likely to take place without, er, spectators.

“Kennedy and the Victoria Racing Club announced a new agreement last November which extended Kennedy as naming rights sponsor of Oaks Day until 2023. There is no change to that,” Kennedy said on Tuesday.

And what of the Bird Cage? After all, Kennedy spent more than $1 million on its luxury pavilion last year. “The Birdcage is far from all our thinking,” he said. “I’m sure all decisions on the future of the spring carnival will be made with the health and safety of the Victorian community as the number one priority.”

Crowds at the 2019 Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse.

Crowds at the 2019 Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse.Credit:Justin McManus

Fair enough. Melbourne has bigger things to worry about. But the fixture does remain an important financial consideration for the VRC.

The club, chaired by the indomitable Amanda Elliott, produced a profit of just over $600,000 in 2019 from revenue of about $200 million. A $70 million debt is covered by a facility agreement with ANZ Bank, secured against land owned by the club and another $10 million borrowed from Racing Victoria.

MELBOURNE, VIRTUALLY

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Melbourne City Council is boldly going where other democracies fear to tread by actually meeting online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Victorian Parliament lower house didn’t sit this week on “health advice” and won’t return until September. Federal parliament is similarly in abeyance this week and is not due back until August 24. But there is no stopping the city council, which has pivoted to the digital age with a virtual meeting.

The sitting comes ahead of an October election, which will be a postal ballot. Other councils are expected to follow this lead.

Council discussed a new heritage design policy that will see the brutalist Hoyts Mid City Centre, built in the late 1960s on Bourke St and described as “aesthetically significant”, come under tighter heritage protection.

Also on the agenda, the $2.6 million upgrade of the Royal Park Western Pavilion, including new women’s change rooms, finally.

Lord mayor Sally Capp thanked councillors for attending via technology, while clearly acing fellow councillors with superior Zoom framing, lighting and backdrop (flags and local art).

But she then fluffed while introducing questions from members of the public, before apologising with a ready explanation. “I was distracted because I noticed councillor [and Sky News presenter Nicholas] Reece was wearing a tuxedo.”

KOOYONG COVID

It was a red alert for the city’s tennis set after a member infected with COVID-19 played a couple of matches on the weekend at prestigious Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club.

The eastern suburbs haunt is also home club to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and calls itself “the spiritual home of Australian tennis”.

An undated photo from Josh Frydenberg's Facebook page.

An undated photo from Josh Frydenberg’s Facebook page.

The club put out an unsettling missive on Monday after a member played on Friday and Saturday before testing positive. “Records show that the member entered the clubhouse immediately after play on both days wearing a mask on both occasions,” the email read.

Frydenberg was club champion in 1996 but a two-year sojourn to Oxford in 1997 meant he never got his shot at back-to-back titles. The club told members to check health department guidelines “as a precaution”. Just don’t say the words “Aspen cluster”.

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