Pride London organisers have blamed "cashflow issues" for the
last-minute scale-back of this year's World Pride event.
Amid a storm of community anger and disappointment, details
began to emerge of the fiasco, which will see World Pride London
reduced to an on-foot procession with no floats or vehicles.
Speaking to DIVA today, Pride London's director of
communications Uwern Jong said: "The issue is that there's a
shortfall but it's not a lack of funds, it's a lack of cash - it's
a cashflow issue."
Pointing to the significant of expense of the event - which
involves street closures, extended licensing hours, extra policing,
extra street-cleaning and the re-routing of traffic and public
transport - and its dependence on corporate sponsorship and public
donation, Jong continued:
"Every year we have to give assurances to City Hall that
everything will be paid so we can put on a [safe] event. We have
money from walking groups and market stalls but we don't get that
cash until two years later. The cost of the event has gone up by
30% because of the numbers of people expected. This was budgeted
for but the cash didn't come in as we needed it to from sponsors,
donors and supporters and the level of assurance we need to provide
to City Hall wasn't reached."
At a meeting on 27 June with the Greater London Authority,
Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police, Pride London
was forced to accept new terms for the event.
These include starting the parade two hours earlier than
scheduled at 11am, ending the celebrations in Trafalgar Square two
hours earlier at 6pm, and abandoning the planned dance arena and
street closures in Soho. In addition, there will be no floats or
vehicles leading the parade.
Asked to address widespread feeling that the event has become a
"shambles", Jong told DIVA: "We are fully aware of that and we have
to hold up our hands. Maybe there was a lack of planning but this
is an enormous event."
He added that Pride London is in discussions with charities and
community groups left out of pocket by the ban on floats to see if
they could be refunded for their expenses.
The committee, which consists entirely of volunteers, is also
hoping to persuade City Hall to allow vehicles that will enable
groups such as Age Concern to join the procession.
Suggesting that the pared-down event was an opportunity to take
Pride back to its activist roots, he said: "I'm ready to fight to
show that it does not detract from what [Pride] means. Too many
people think it's about a big party and a music festival but it's
protesting for the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide and
in the Commonwealth [where] 44 out of 51 countries criminalise
Lashing out at those saying that the failure to deliver a World
Pride event to be proud of makes them "ashamed to be British", he
said: "All the people who are ashamed should look at themselves -
this is an opportunity to look at the event for what it is: it's a
protest. We are standing up for gay rights and people forget that
and I urge them to be proud to be British and stand up in the
streets and fight for our rights."
The London Assembly's Labour members are calling on Mayor Boris
Johnson to step in and save World Pride London.
Labour London Assembly Member Tom Copley said: "This is a huge
embarrassment for London, and damages our reputation as an open and
welcoming City that takes pride in its diversity. While the
organisers sort out their cash flow issues the mayor should step in
and provide temporary funding to save the event.
"The Mayor has £5.6 million in his contingency fund for an
emergency such as this. It's time for him to put his money where is
mouth is and step in to save World Pride.
"The mayor has a duty to protect London's international
reputation and he should have been on top of this month's ago - the
fact that he held an emergency meeting just seven days before the
event shows an astonishing lack of engagement and leadership.
"Gay communities around the world face discrimination and
persecution. London should be a shining example of an open and
diverse city - especially in the year when we are hosting World
Pride and the Olympics."