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Behind the scenes at Pink Dot 2016

Pink Dot returns for its third Sunday installment this September. We go behind the scenes of Hong Kong’s largest diversity event to see how it all comes together

When it comes to Hong Kong events, Pink Dot is a rare breed. Despite seemingly being aimed at only a small part of society, the LGBTI pride festival has developed, in just three years, into a city-wide, apolitical, all-inclusive display of diversity, attended by the gay and the not-gay alike. Last year’s Tamar Park edition saw some 15,000 Hongkongers don their pinkest outfits for a day-long carnival for the young and the young-at-heart. We meet event co-directors Betty Grisoni and Brian Leung ahead of this year’s installment – which has outgrown Tamar and is taking place in West Kowloons Nursery Park on September 25 – to see how this show of LGBTI support has become more of a Sunday afternoon village. 

The volunteers
This year, in addition to a core group of organisers, more than 200 volunteers are helping to stage what has quickly become one of the biggest events of any type in Hong Kong. Such is its scale, in fact, that this year’s volunteer numbers more than double last year’s total. “So many people have dedicated so much time to this,” says Grisoni. The makeup of the volunteer corps also reflects Pink Dot’s diversity agenda. “There are lots of different people who volunteer,” Grisoni tells us. “And I know for a fact that not all of them are LGBTI. For me, that’s really touching.”

Indeed, it’s the non-LGBTIs that Grisoni, Leung and their team are hoping to get on board – the event’s apolitical nature is, in a way, key to this goal. “In Hong Kong,” says Leung, “we already have a pride march. So there’s really no point in doing a large-scale event like that. We really want it to be an all-welcoming, all-inclusive event. It’s an event for our friends, family and colleagues to show support for us,
for who we are. That’s the essence
of Pink Dot.”

The sponsors
“Pink Dot is not a year-long, money-making event at all,” says Grisoni. “All the money that we receive from our sponsors goes back into the event.” Indeed, as one of the largest free events in Hong Kong, Pink Dot probably wouldn’t be possible without the financial support of its corporate sponsors. However, Pink Dot presents more than just an opportunity to tick the trendy corporate social responsibility box. “It’s not just the diversity department of an international bank,” says Grisoni. “UBS, for example, are having their staff man a craft booth. And not just the LGBTI staff. They’re using it as a team-building event.”

Pink Dot’s ‘soft’ approach to displaying diversity also allows many larger firms to take a more active approach to their involvement. “The theme of Pink Dot coincides with the diversity policy that’s been enacted in a lot of corporate businesses recently,” says Leung. “A lot of banking and financial firms are really coming out and supporting a diversity policy. Pink Dot is a great opportunity to get the message across.”

This year’s Pink Dot sponsors extend beyond financial giants. For Grisoni, the list of sponsors is a serendipitous reflection of the event itself. She notes: “It’s going back to the fact that Pink Dot is starting to be about diversity.”

The lineup
Musical acts constitute a principal component of Pink Dot. This year, an impressive list of local stars are lending their services – on a volunteer basis, no less – to fly the diversity flag. Hong Kong legends and longstanding supporters of the LGBTI community Denise Ho and Anthony Wong are to be joined by some of the hottest new musical stars, including C AllStar, Shiga Lin, Chochuckmo, Gin Lee and Pakho Chau, on stage in live performances throughout the afternoon alongside the games, stalls and other entertainment and activities on offer.

In presenting a musical roster of such broad appeal, Pink Dot is also reinforcing that it’s more than just another LGBTI event. “I think Pink Dot gives a sense of belonging not just to the LGBTI community,” says Grisoni, “but to the Hong Kong community as a whole.” Adds Leung: “We want to show that we have more in common than the differences between us. That’s a very simple theme that everyone can relate to.”

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