3 min

MLT watching its spending

Adkin leaving as exec producer

Credit: Dean Tomlinson

Will 2004 be known as the year of cuts or the year of community for Mr Leatherman Toronto?

MLT began 2003 with a plan to be more prudent and realistic about its costs. With the departure this month of David Adkin from the part-time paid position of executive producer, the board is taking a close look at how to carry on in the future.

Adkin is finishing his two-year term. He says he’s tired and needs a rest. Adkin began as a volunteer in 1996, and produced his first event for them in 1998. After eight contests and numerous events, he’s decided it’s time to get back to his other passion, directing movies.

With Adkin’s departure, the board has decided they’ll be returning to a strictly volunteer-run model. Adkin’s responsibilities will be divided amongst various working committees and individuals.

“I’ve been wearing 10 hats,” Adkin says. “I did a list of jobs for the board to see what I have been doing: producer, director, scriptwriter, selected music, original film and video work, direct sponsorship for the organization, head of marketing, supervising marketing, graphic design, ad artwork, personnel. In addition to actually producing Leather Ball, Resurrection, Leather Pride Ball, MLT weekend and the competition.”

MLT president Daddy John Burch says Adkin brought a lot of creativity to the job.

“His attention to detail was also a strength,” says Burch. “There are so many little things that go on.”

Burch says cash flow is always a concern.

“The budget has been very tight for a number of reasons that I’m not going to go into with Xtra,” says Burch. “We can make a lot more money for charity and one of the ways we’re doing that is by not paying for an executive producer.

“It’s not that we can’t afford it or lost money,” Burch adds, pointing to the economy and the wish to involve more members of the community as key factors in the decision.

“We’ll have met all of our obligations financially to everybody. We are doing this because we want more volunteers to be involved. We want to have more people producing events because there are lots of talented people out there.”

While the paid position was busy, it also cut into MLT’s ability to support its designated charity, which is selected annually by each year’s titleholder. Over the years the amounts raised have varied, but Adkin says donations usually figured in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.

The organization, however, must also pay the expenses of running the events and the contests. This year’s MLT competition weekend alone took place over four days and included 16 events.

“It is very tight unless we have extra money in sponsorship coming in to pay for salary,” he says.

Still, MLT’s charitable donation this year is expected to be its largest ever. While the 2003 financial year isn’t over until the end of March 2004, Burch estimates that designated group Toronto People With AIDS Foundation will receive about $10,000. PWA received a similar amount in 2000. That money was directed to their financial assistance fund, which helps individuals to live independently.

Last year the HIV And AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) received between $5,000 and $6,000. HALCO’s executive director Ruth Carey says the money was used to pay for an articling student in order to provide more direct service to clients. HALCO provides basic legal advice, legal representation, public legal education, law reform and community development for people across Ontario living with HIV and AIDS.

Adkin and Burch agree that one of the keys to the fundraising is the effort put out by the year’s titleholders – not just Mr Leatherman himself, but also Mr Leather Fellowship and the MLT Bootblack. The trio for 2003 held more than 80 events.

“All the money that the title-holders’ events raise goes to charity. It’s all set aside and earmarked. Beyond that whatever the organization has made is added,” says Burch.

Adkin has witnessed many changes over the past eight years, and has helped to grow the organization and its events dramatically. In his first year the contest was held at the 519 Community Centre and attracted about 100 people; it now attracts more than 1,000.

Two years ago Adkin decided to launch Resurrection on Easter weekend; he also launched the Leather Pride Ball, which ran for two years.

“It’s a good feeling to be working with people who really want to be involved in doing something for the community,” says Adkin.

He now plans to get back to his career as a film director/producer. Three of his films have queer topics – OUT: Stories Of Lesbian And Gay Youth, Jim Loves Jack: The James Egan Story and We’re Funny That Way.