Unprofessional conduct is overshadowed in the media by claims of ‘heterophobia’.
Feast Festival will celebrate 20 years as it kicks off on 21 October, however the LGBTIQ arts and culture festival has been surrounded by controversy since the end of September. Media outlets began reporting that the General Manager for Feast, Cassandra Liebeknecht, had been sacked because she is straight.
Liebeknecht was suspended, with full pay, for unprofessional conduct but that did not stop national press from presenting a very different story. In a story published by The Australian the claim was made that the “board ambushed” Liebeknecht because of “squeaky wheels” in the LGBTIQ community that took issue with a straight woman leading the festival.
However, stories quickly surfaced that artists, volunteers, and staff found her to be difficult to work with, even with some having to fight to be paid. Factor in the growing amount of debt that reached $82,841 in 2015 and the controversy surrounding the arts venue Tuxedo Cat and the collaboration plans that went awry, leaving the arts venue homeless, it becomes easy to question Liebeknecht’s business conduct.
Yet, Liebeknecht told The Australian that the allegations against her are untrue and she is seeking legal advice about discrimination.
The Feast Festival board released a statement covering both the Tuxedo Cat controversy and the reports about discrimination. The board stated they were “not in a position to comment about any internal investigations that may be currently underway, but we can say that no staff have resigned or been asked to leave the organisation.”
The statement went on to say, “The Board of Management is very disappointed that the sexuality of the General Manager has become the focus of some media commentary. Indeed Feast’s view is—and always has been—that someone’s sexuality or gender should never be discriminated against. We support and celebrate all sexualities and gender identities.”
As the public waits for the controversies to be resolved, Feast Festival will continue on as planned with a program full of talented local, interstate, and international LGBTIQ and Ally artists.