Swallow your Pride
After tales of financial troubles and speculation about the programme, World Pride came off. Just. Where do we go from here?
So that was it - the World Pride that wasn't. After weeks of speculation, denials, emergency meetings, a half-baked apology and the announcement that the chair of organising committee Pride London was standing down, World Pride went ahead - just not in the world-class way we were originally promised.
Claims that it would be 'like the Jubilee, only bigger' proved unfounded. Given the decision to move the event to the earlier time of 11am, the turnout on the day was better than expected. An estimated 15,000 took part in the march - sorry, 'procession'. But there were no floats or motorised vehicles, which meant that many community groups wasted funds on floats they couldn't use and people with walking difficulties were deterred from attending.
There were no official street parties in Soho. Instead, gay bar owners were warned by Westminster Council that any music 'audible outside of your premises' would result in their licences being revoked.
There was no personal appearance by Hillary Clinton, whose presence was strongly hinted at during the World Pride press launch a few weeks before. Instead she sent a video message thanking organisers for her 'World LGBT Award'. And there was no Boris Johnson, who was otherwise engaged.
Celebrations in Trafalgar Square were cut short. And it rained - though that's hardly the fault of the organisers or the mayor's office or anyone else.
But much of the blame must lie with the people who form the Pride committee. It's all very well them saying that the financial shortfall wasn't nearly as high as newspaper reports suggested. But there was a shortfall (something in the region of £65,000), which resulted in the event being severely scaled back. Why wasn't this accounted for? And if it was simply a question of cash flow, why weren't we alerted in time?
Why were the last-minute offers of bailouts from sponsors turned down? Saying 'it's too late' isn't good enough - not when it was the Pride committee themselves who chose when to finally come clean and reveal the extent of their money problems.
There are other questions to ask - and plenty of people have been asking them on gay websites and social networks. How can a small, self-elected group of volunteers hope to deliver a world-class event without a single full-time worker? What were the costs of all those 'fact-finding missions' to foreign climes mentioned on the Pride website? And how can the present board expect to continue without the trust of the community they represent?
Perhaps the answers to some of these questions will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. What's certain is that Pride did fall, as some people predicted weeks before the event. How it recovers from that fall will depend as much on the community at large as the organisation itself.
Already there is talk among activists of taking Pride back to its roots: doing away with the pop acts and injecting more in the way of politics. A group called Community Pride for London 2013 has launched on Facebook. Meanwhile, gay business leaders are calling for a new, openly elected Pride committee, comprised of people with a proven track record and a head for business. A public meeting will take place at Heaven on July 25.
For those asking if we still need Pride, it's worth noting that World Pride coincided with the publication of a report by Stonewall showing that 55 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils in Britain's secondary schools experience homophobic bullying. In a country where large numbers of young people are still being bullied because of their sexuality, Pride is as vital as ever.
We should bear this in mind as we move forward. And now that this year's World Pride has been consigned to history, it's time to put our disappointment into perspective and remember that we have been here before. In 1998, Pride in London was cancelled. A group of community and business leaders got together and relaunched the event the following year.
A similar thing needs to happen now. The current board of Pride London should stand down. A new committee should be elected in their place. And work should begin as soon as possible to ensure that next year's Pride is an event we can all be proud of.
The Future of Pride will be debated at Heaven on July 25