First Published: September 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
Now the bunting's packed away and the bills start rolling in OutUK's Adrian Gillan asks leading gay campaigners, business people and you what you think the future of Pride events should be. Many of this year's events ended up hundreds of thousands of pounds in the red and were marred by rows with local authorities. Does the gay community need Pride?

Are Pride events as relevant today as they were a decade or two back? What should be the main point of a Pride event in the UK in 2002? Is the emphasis rightly shifting from politics to partying? Or are events now just too commercial with their door fees, expensive drinks, in your face corporate sponsorship and irrelevant overpaid pop acts?

We had a very large number of responses to our online survey and the results to each question make interesting reading. Overall you thought Pride was still important to the gay community, there should be a major national event in London and that you weren't averse to commercial sponsorship. Read the full results here.

Peter Tatchell
Human rights campaigner and co-organiser of the UKs first Pride march in 1972.
"The party has lost its soul"
"Homophobia is not as rampant as three decades ago, but it's still evident in queer suicides, blackmail, job discrimination and hate attacks. So long as prejudice remains, we need to celebrate our sexuality and press the case for human rights.

Pride should be about queer visibility, defiance and equality, as well as being an exuberant, fun celebration and a wild, hedonistic party. The two different strands are not incompatible. However, the main London event at least has now become depoliticised and over-commercial. It is not much different from the many other summer pop festivals, such as Reading and Glastonbury. The party has lost its soul.

I've got no objection to corporate sponsorship, providing the sponsors are pro-gay rights and providing the sponsorship advertising does not overwhelm the human rights message. All sponsors should be required to sign up to a basic commitment to oppose discrimination, both in their own employment practices and in terms of parliamentary legislation.

Local Pride marches and festivals are tremendously important. They can have a big, positive impact on local communities and attitudes. But there is also a place for mega national and international Pride events to globalise queer issues and forge world-wide queer solidarity."

Angela Mason OBE
Executive Director, Stonewall
"There is a big problem in London"
"I think that there is still a need for Prides. They are an opportunity for people to come together, be visible, feel strong and have a good time.

I don't think that they are directly political but successful Prides do demonstrate the strength of the LGBT community - a good example is Birmingham Pride and Cardiff Mardi Gras. The success of both has been important in getting LGBT issues on those political maps.

There is a big problem in London because it's so big and there isn't that sense of a local community. London used to be the national event and it no longer is, but we don't have a sufficient sense of ourselves in London to substitute for this.

I think there are big problems about money to finance Prides. Where Prides have a clear purpose and clear connection with the communities they spring from this can be dealt with, but without that anchorage they can become too expensive and too commercial.

In London getting Hyde Park would make a real difference, but could we afford it? If we could, the march and the festival could be integrated much better and I think attendances would increase."

John Hamilton
Chair, Manchester's Village Business Association.
"We are not shouting about rights, this is a Lesbian and Gay party."
"Manchester Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras 2002 has been one of the most successful and safest Mardi Gras over the last ten years. There were only 8 arrests made and 31 offences were reported over the Mardi Gras weekend, an overall reduction of 43% on reported offences compared to Gayfest last year. Not bad considering the quantity of people who visited. Over 250,000 people saw the parade and over 100,000 people were estimated to have attended the daytime activities in the village over the weekend.

Room for improvement? The quality of entertainment could be better and we could do with creating a greater understanding of what Mardi Gras is about. The trust needs to be put back into Mardi Gras - it has been put back into the hands of the community. Yes, it makes money, but it's more about putting the heart back into the Gay Village, strengthening community and raising funds for charity.

Politically, we still have a lot to fight for and make people aware of. We may be more visible and outspoken, but still don't have equal rights as heterosexual couples. However, I think Mardi Gras has gone from being a political event into a party. From what we see, we get the impression that most young people do not align themselves to a political party these days, although we know some do. And a lot of people aren't after a protest, just a fabulous long weekend. Unlike "Pride" events in other cities - Birmingham or Brighton - we are not shouting about rights, this is a Lesbian and Gay party, showing the diversity within the City of Manchester.

The cost to the public for events over Manchester Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras 2002 was very little. Yes you had to pay to get into clubs, but the prices weren't hiked up substantially - any price changes were relative to their extended opening hours, acts booked, and the donations to charity from door entry fee.

Sponsorship wasn't about making Mardi Gras commercial - a huge amount of capital was required to fund such a large free event, and sponsorship gives us that capital. Speaking on behalf of The Village Business Association who organised Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras 2002, we can hold our heads up high after the event and say that by using good business sense and good planning, we borrowed nothing and owe nothing afterwards.

As for location, it makes a huge difference where a lesbian and gay event such as Mardi Gras takes place. Look at London Mardi Gras on Hackney Marshes and the atmosphere created from everyone traipsing two miles in the pouring rain to get to a muddy field. I was there myself and everyone on the tube afterwards just looked depressed, not happy and excited. Location, location, location, darling!!!

Finally, I'd like to say that any city that wishes to hold a Europride or national Pride gives a focus to their community. Manchester hopes to host Europride in August 2003. This will be a focal point of the national Prides and European Prides, since it's one of the last LGB events of the Euro festival season."

Ross Jackson
Chair, Gay Business Association.
"I feel it is right for the main UK Pride event to be held in London"
"There is definitely as much need for Pride events now as ten or thirty years ago since gay visibility is still extremely important. The emphasis has shifted more to a Mardi Gras style celebration of the gay lifestyle. I believe the old-fashioned black and white poster style protesting that was once evident at most Pride marches still has its place, but more as part of a wider celebration.

Of course we want equality and we want to make people aware that we don't currently have it - but surely we can party at the same time? The fact that I might want to have fun in the bushes at a day long party is no hindrance to the fact that I might be wearing a "Queer as Fuck" T-shirt while I'm doing so.

And Pride definitely means different things in different places. A Pride event in say Bally-Go-Backwards, may be more about bravely promoting the fact that homosexuality is a fact of life in order to start to change opinion, rather than being a celebratory knees-up.

However, I feel it is right for the main UK Pride event to be held in London, and that this has the potential to become a worldwide celebration much as Sydney used to be seen as. Clearly the organisers of this year's London Mardi Gras made a disastrous error with their location on the Marshes. However, despite making a loss, the shareholders have passed a resolution to continue into next year and still provide funding for the Parade."


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