Five years ago, London was awarded the right to host World Pride in 2012. It sounded like a good idea at the time. With the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, this would be another great opportunity to showcase London on the world stage and a fitting way to mark the 40th anniversary of the first Pride march in London.
Early last week, however, rumours started to surface that the organisers were running into financial difficulties. Reports have been confusing and contradictory but it seems that a tab of about £65,000 for security and health and safety had been left unpaid from last year and Pride would not be allowed to go ahead until that and this year’s costs were met.
Organisers quickly denied this before just as quickly releasing a statement saying that due to financial problems the planned global extravaganza would have to be drastically scaled down; from something that looked already remarkably similar to previous Pride events in the capital.
First, the Parade, the very heart of the celebration, will not feature the traditional floats and will become a “procession”. It will also start two hours earlier than planned, thus scuppering many a long-made travel plan.
As a result of the new categorisation, the members of the Gay Police Association will reportedly not be able to march in uniform. This may also apply to members of the services.
The rally in Trafalgar Square will now have to finish at 6pm and the events in Golden Square and Soho Square have been cancelled altogether. The family event in St Anne’s Garden is still happening. The International conference on LGBT human rights in the Commonwealth was also unaffected.
Finally, drinking licences in Soho will not be extended and outdoor drinking not allowed. This sounds like a recipe for disaster as there is simply not enough space in the bars to accommodate everyone. How this will be enforced is beyond us.
Blaming it on a tough economic climate, the spin put on this by the organisers is one of safety and a return “to the roots of the original Pride London rallies” but many have seen this fiasco as an embarrassment for the LGBT community and for London itself.
Amid calls for Boris Johnson and Elton John (a patron) to save Pride, several meetings have taken place at City Hall during the past week only to have the event declared “beyond salvaging“. This came with the confirmation that Mayor Johnson will not be attending the parade (he hasn’t since his first in 2008), an apology (for “confusion and chaos”) from the organisers, and finally the announcement of the resignation of the Chair of Pride London.
During the week the sorry story had slipped further into farce when organisations who had spend so much time and money (a float costs £2,500 before it is even decorated) were allegedly told that they could use shopping trolleys to replace their float.
Yesterday we learnt that campaigner Peter Tatchell, who’s taken part in most of those 40 London Prides, may have been banned from speaking at the rally by City Hall because of his links to the Green party.
This is not the first time that the event has run into financial problems. Most notably, in 1999, Europride was cancelled altogether after it went bankrupt. In recent years, accusations of being too commercial and not focused enough on the community have been as regular as the gathering itself. There is, after all, no way to please everyone.
Groups are already forming for the organisation of the 2013 edition and we may just end up with several events, next year!
World Pride 2012 is taking place in the West End on Saturday 7 July. People wanting to take part in the “procession” are asked to assemble from 10am at Portman Square for an 11am start. Photo by zefrog.