World Pride 2012 In Trouble

By Nicolas Chinardet Last edited 70 months ago
World Pride 2012 In Trouble

The rainbow flag all before deployment a wet Pride 2007

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.

Last Updated 05 July 2012

Ravingtory

On a positive note, a procession takes us back to the early days of Pride as a protest. Maybe this will help focus on what Pride should be about - a protest, not commercialism.

truthmonkey

We are unlikely to end up with several events in Westminster in 2013.

I and other former trustees were involved in advising a "rescue" plan for Soho that involved the Soho Business Forum taking responsibility for the street closure there.  This failed as Westminster do not permit large scale events taking place in nearby areas to be run by different organizations as they believe this hampers communication and makes crowd flow etc unsafe. 

That's not to say differently run events couldn't take place in other boroughs - such as Camden, Lambeth or Southwark - or on different days.

Personally my preference is for a community-led parade on Friday evening with a political rally (run like 17-24-30 with just a small stage) somewhere; a street party in Soho on Saturday led by the Soho Business Association, and; a park-based music festival on the Sunday run by a commercial organization such as Mama Group (who own G-A-Y and Mean Fiddler and run events such as Lovebox).

Nicolas Chinardet

And now Peter Tatchell is basically accusing City Hall of sabotaging Pride:

- London Mayor accused over World Pride fiasco
- Westminster threatens gay venues in Soho
- Boris Johnson snubs Pride, declines to attend
- Offers of funding rejected by City Hall
- Hire of Trafalgar Square hiked by 100%
- Change in start time is recipe for chaos & disruption
- Many Jewish, disabled & older people excluded
- Bid to stop Peter Tatchell speaking at rally

“The World Pride organisers have made mistakes and must share some of
the blame for the current shambles. However, they are not the sole
villains. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, could have rescued Pride
but has apparently chosen to not do so. The actions and inactions of the
Greater London Authority (GLA) have compounded the problems that Pride
now faces,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who helped
organise Britain’s first Gay Pride parade, held in London 40 years ago,
in July 1972. He has attended every Pride since and is currently the
Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

This month is the 40th anniversary of the first Pride parade and veterans from 1972 will lead Saturday’s London march.

“A lack of official transparency and apparent economy with the truth at
City Hall is part of the problem. Another issue is the Mayor’s
unwillingness to consult with the wider lesbian, gay bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) community to find a solution,” added Mr Tatchell.

“City Hall has known about the problems for many weeks. Like Pride, the
mayoral team failed to involve other LGBT stakeholders and financiers to
raise extra cash and to draft a credible rescue plan. If the Mayor had
acted weeks ago, we would not be in this mess.

“I have received information from insiders at City Hall. There is
concern about the behaviour of some officials connected to the Mayor and
perhaps the Mayor himself. 

“Among other things, it is alleged as follows:

“Gaydar and Smirnoff last week reportedly offered well in excess of
£60,000 to cover Pride’s funding shortfall but the Mayor’s office
spurned this offer claiming it was “too late”. This “too late” claim is
disputed, with some people suggesting that there was still sufficient
time last week to produce a viable rescue package, if the Mayor’s team
had the will to do so. 

“Last year, the hire of Trafalgar Square for the post-parade rally
reportedly cost in the region of £50,000. This year the GLA has
allegedly demanded £100,000. If true, this is a wholly unjustified 100%
increase which has, in part, created the funding shortfall. The GLA
appears to be imposing on Pride and the LGBT community charges that many
people find extortionate and exploitative. It seems to be more about
making money than serving Londoners.

“It is claimed that the GLA is forcing Pride to use certain contractors,
who are not necessarily the cheapest. This may be artificially
exacerbating Pride’s money problems.

“The financial difficulties faced by Pride are mostly a cash-flow
problem. The GLA has forced Pride to pay for everything upfront as a
condition for the events to go head. Pride says the sponsorship money it
expects to receive by the end of the festivities would have bridged
most of the funding gap.

“The GLA has reportedly not paid all the money it promised to Pride; thereby compounding the cash-flow difficulties.

“The Mayor’s office says there are “problems” and “safety issues”
related to the Pride parade which require the start time to be bought
forward to 11am and which require huge insurance premiums to be paid.
However, they refuse to say what these problems and safety issues are.
This is tantamount to demonising Pride as a troublesome event. In
contrast, the police say it is one of the most trouble-free events held
in London. Previously the police have adopted a very low presence,
confident that Pride has no problem or safety issues. 

“Mayor Johnson’s sudden change in the parade start-time from 1pm to 11am
is very unfair to people who have pre-booked trains and coaches for
a1pm start. The march will have left before many people have arrived.
This is a recipe for chaos and disruption. Instead of an orderly march,
tens of thousands of disorganised people will swarm through the streets
towards Trafalgar Square and Soho, blocking traffic and causing
grid-lock. 

“The 11am kick-off clashes with Jewish Sabbath services, which means
that many Jewish people will be unable to attend. The lack of religious
and cultural sensitivity by the mayoral team is surprising and shocking.
 
“The Metropolitan Police are to be commended for their sympathetic,
supportive relations with the Pride organisers. In contrast to City Hall
and Westminster council, the police have gone out of their way to
facilitate the Pride events, as much as possible given other official
obstructions.

“The Mayor’s team has, in effect, gagged the Pride organisers by
requiring them to submit all news releases to City Hall for approval.
Changes in wording have been demanded by City Hall, which some say suit
the spin the Mayor’s office wants to put on the Pride fiasco. The Pride
committee is not free to communicate with the LGBT community. It is
alleged that Pride’s contract with City Hall gives mayoral bosses a veto
over what the Pride committee can and cannot say publicly.

“Not only have the city authorities forced Pride to cancel all official
street parties in Soho, they also want to stop any unofficial parties.
Well over 100,000 people are expected to pour into Soho after the parade
and rally. Westminster council has sent what reads like a threatening
letter to gay venues warning them that their licences could be revoked
if they play music that is “audible outside of your premises” and if
they allow customers to drink in the street. Ignoring the exceptional
circumstances on Saturday, venues are expected to operate on Saturday
“as on any normal day.” All celebrations must take place “within
licensed premises,” the letter says. Westminster council has not
explained how up to 250,000 people are expected to cram into 20 Soho gay
venues with a maximum capacity of 5,000 people.

“No plans have been made by the Mayor or Westminster council to deal
with the vast numbers of people expected on Saturday; apart from turning
people away and dispersing them, which could lead to angry crowds and
potential public order problems. This lack of contingency planning also
risks creating traffic snarl-ups throughout central London, as crowds
spill out into the streets with nowhere to go.

“Cynics suggest that City Hall is not unhappy with all the bad publicity
around Pride, in the hope that it will deter people from coming and
keep the numbers low; making the festivities more manageable and easier
to control.

“Even though London is this year hosting World Pride, with LGBT
delegations from around the world, the Mayor is not attending. Many LGBT
people are interpreting his non-attendance as a snub. He did not attend
last year either.

“The Mayor’s office demanded that Pride drop me as a keynote speaker at
the post-parade rally in Trafalgar Square, giving the organisers the
impression that if I spoke City Hall’s authorisation for the entire
rally could be withdrawn. Pride caved in to this pressure and informed
me that I was being dropped from the speaker’s list. When this was
exposed at Mayor’s Question Time on Wednesday, the Mayor agreed that I
could speak, providing there were other political party speakers. He
falsely claimed that I am a “Green politician”. I am not a politician. I
am not elected, or standing for election, to any public office. I’m a
non-party-political human rights campaigner. I was planning to speak
exclusively on LGBT issues, with no mention of the Green Party. The
political affiliations of other rally speakers have not been questioned
or used against them. I was singled out.

Watch Mayor’s Question Time here: http://goo.gl/ufwf3

“Because of this news release, I expect the Mayor’s office may find some
new excuse to bar me from speaking on Saturday. City Hall has form. In
previous years, I have been banned by Boris aides from attending mayoral
LGBT receptions.

“The decision to axe floats, buses and cars in the parade is disastrous
for older and disabled LGBT people. Many will not now be able to
participate. This is against the spirit of legislation intended to
protect disabled and older people against exclusion and discrimination.

“Banning floats in the parade is also a big blow to the many LGBT
charities that have spent thousands of pounds on hiring and decorating
them. They will lose a major opportunity to raise their profile,
publicise their work and secure donation pledges.

“Corporate bosses are already discussing a take-over of Pride. They are
not displeased with the current failings. They see Pride as a commodity
and a financial opportunity. They want to turn Pride into a largely
depoliticised commercial event. The GLA is understood to be sympathetic.
This would diminish the LGBT community links and betray the ideals and
values of Pride.
 
“It is difficult to say which of these problems have been compounded by
the Mayor and which ones are the result of over-zealous officials.

“Although I believe these allegations to be true, based on information I
have received, they are, at this stage, allegations not proven facts.
Nevertheless, they have more than a whiff of credibility and they demand
open disclosure and honest answers from Mayor Johnson.

“Regardless of the current shambles, the parade will go head. Without
the floats and parties, it will revert to its roots - a protest march
for LGBT human rights. The Pride slogan is: “Decriminalise homosexuality
worldwide - Global equality for LGBT people.” This is entirely
appropriate, as July is the 40th anniversary of the UK’s first-ever Gay
Pride parade, which took place in London on 1 July 1972.

“The Mayor has a duty to help save Pride. If the event flops it will be a
huge embarrassment to London, just three weeks before the Olympics.

“I urge the mayor, police and Westminster council to re-open
negotiations with the Pride organisers and other LGBT stakeholders to
reinstate the start time of 1pm and to allow a small number of vehicles
for older and disabled people.

“For the sake of the many thousands of people expected to participate,
and to avoid widespread disruption across central London, the city
authorities have a public duty to make changes to ensure a happy,
successful Pride,” said Mr Tatchell.