UPDATE: Cash-strapped WorldPride in trouble
Longstanding board member Tony Hughes has taken over as interim chair of the charity, according to the statement.
In the days after Pride London announced that WorldPride would be downsized because of a funding shortfall, various calls for the resignation of the entire board were made.
But Pride London says the rest of the board "remains unchanged and committed to delivering an event that London can be proud of." It also says WorldPride will still be a scaled-down event. That means the July 7 parade will now be a car-less and float-less procession starting at 11am, instead of 1pm; there'll be no events at Golden Square or around Soho, and there'll be a more time-constrained stage event at Trafalgar Square.
Eleventh-hour attempts to inject additional funding into the event were made, but it was too late.
Pink News reports Pride London as saying that it was "logistically impossible" to reinstate floats or return to a 1pm parade start, in spite of the financial rescue offer.
In the wake of criticism for the lack of an apology to those who are planning to attend and/or participate in the July 7 event, Pride London now says it's sorry for the last-minute changes.
"We offer our sincerest apologies to the community, our sponsors and partners for the position we have found ourselves in. We understand the confusion and chaos that this must have caused for many people. We understand that the changes are last minute and people from all over the country and world will be affected by this in their plans to be part of the event. We share in your frustrations, but we hope that the community will understand the facts and the reasons why we have had to move to this position," a statement on Pride London's website reads.
Meanwhile, London mayor Boris Johnson will reportedly not be in attendance at the reconfigured weekend event, according to Pink News.
Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell says it's "quite appalling" Johnson will not be there. "London is the host city, he’s the mayor, Boris should be at the front of the parade," Pink News quotes Tatchell as saying.
Tues, July 3, 6:40pm
As 11th-hour attempts to rescue WorldPride continue, the Pride London committee faces calls for its resignation after it significantly downsized the event because of a funding shortfall.
Earlier today, Pink News reported that a last-minute meeting was held at London's city hall to figure out a way to salvage WorldPride, which will no longer feature cars or floats in the July 7 parade, won't have any official events in the gay district of Soho, and will have a more time-constrained rally at Trafalgar Square.
Some reports suggested the city hall meeting was an attempt to save the event, while others said that the meeting was held to firm up event arrangements and that no major announcements were expected.
Global gay dating site Gaydar reportedly made a last-ditch attempt to bail out the event but was told it was too late.
In a statement to Gay Star News, Gaydar's CEO says in part, "Following a number of conversations with the GLA [Greater London Authority], Pride London Board members both past and present, Westminster Council and local MP Jonathan Glanz, we have sadly been informed that the licensing required to stage the event cannot be reinstated at this late stage and have been forced, therefore, to conclude that the World Pride event is beyond salvaging, regardless of cash investment.
"I sincerely hope this situation can be avoided in future and that London can enjoy the pride event it deserves in 2013 and beyond."
Meanwhile, two Soho businessmen, Gary Henshaw of Ku Bar, and Jeremy Joseph of GAY are asking people to sign their online petition demanding that Pride London resign.
"We both believe Pride should go ahead next Saturday and most importantly we want to be involved in helping to rebuild and repair the damage for London Pride 2013," their statement on Facebook says. "However this cannot happen unless the members of this year's Pride Committee accept their responsibility and resign now. Then, and only then, can work start by the community to rebuild London Pride for a strong and financially stable future."
Meanwhile, Pink News says it's supporting a new group, pridetrust.com, which is calling for a public meeting to discuss the future of Pride in the city. On its website, the group chastises Pride London for failing to "apologise or identify that both individuals and participating charities groups and organisations were going to be significantly affected both financially and also politically."
It adds, "Pride belongs to LGBT people and our supporters and friends. We deserve better than this, and we can do better than this. We need a Pride for London that involves LGBT communities - including community and campaigning groups of every kind such as LGBT charities, trade unions, campaigning and student groups, commercial venues, and the LGBT media.
"We need a structure which starts from the principle that Pride is owned by all of us and that Pride is more than a party," the statement continues. "It is one of our communities' most high-profile ways of coming together, celebrating our achievements and campaigning for equality."
The group says the community needs an approach to Pride that "doesn't rely on the campaigning and right to assembly being determined by commercial viability."
"We need elected officials and public bodies to play their part. London Mayor Boris Johnson and the GLA should ensure core funding is in place for the event to enable this," it added. "It is our belief that the additional income to both London and its businesses from a vibrant Pride far outweighs these costs, and Prides from around the global such as Sydney and Tel-Aviv demonstrate this."
It further notes that similar events, such as Notting Hill Carnival, which attracts comparable numbers of attendees, receive grants of 250,000 pounds from the GLA, which is in keeping with the mayor's and GLA's strategies for "developing world-class events to promote London culturally and socially."
Appeals to London's Conservative mayor, Boris Johnson, to intervene were still being made, one of the latest coming by way of an open letter to him from his political opponents in the Labour camp.
"We urge you to use your power as Mayor to get Westminster City Council back to the table with the organizers of London Pride and sort this out. We understand sponsors are willing to come forward and close the financial gap. Now we need political will to get the procession back on track," the letter states.
But with mere days to go before the weekend's events, there is little hope that an intervention by Johnson would do much good.
Other WorldPride events, like the human rights conference on July 4 and a gala dinner on July 5, appear to be on track.
Fri, June 29
In the midst of a substantial scaleback of WorldPride events, gay activists are pleading with London Mayor Boris Johnson to help save the cash-strapped event due to launch in just eight days.
Pride London, which is hosting and organizing the event, has pulled cars and floats from the July 7 parade, saying there will now be a procession, with walking groups only, that will start earlier, at 11am, instead of 1pm as originally scheduled.
Official events in the gay district, Soho, have also been cancelled, including a large DJ party in Golden Square, Gay Star News reports. And while a celebratory rally in Trafalgar Square will reportedly go ahead, it too will be scaled back.
The drastic downsizing of the event, announced June 28, follows an emergency meeting at London City Hall, the report says.
“To a backdrop of a more difficult economic climate and tough sponsorship calls considering everything that is happening in London this year, fundraising from both corporates and from within the community has been more challenging than ever,” the statement reads. “Despite creating a strong sponsorship base for this year's planned event, there is, in the week leading up to 7 of July, still a shortfall.
“All agencies involved in delivering the event, including the Greater London Authority, Westminster City Council and Metropolitan Police have agreed that it is prudent to deliver an event that is affordable, without compromising the safety, security and integrity of the event,” the statement continued.
Prominent gay rights activist Peter Tatchell says the crisis threatens to turn the event into a “chaotic damp squib” that would damage London’s reputation just three weeks before the city is due to stage the Summer Olympics.
“The sudden, drastic curtailment of the World Pride parade, rally and street parties is a huge blow to London and its gay community,” he said in a June 29 release.
“I urge the mayor, police and Westminster council to re-open negotiations with the World Pride organisers to allow the scheduled events to take place, for the sake of the million-plus people expected to participate and to avoid widespread chaos across central London.”
But Tatchell, who was among those who organized Britain’s first gay pride parade 40 years ago, says despite the problems, the parade will go ahead. “It will revert to its roots — a protest march for LGBT human rights worldwide.”
Meanwhile, a network of queer groups calling itself Consortium, has drafted a template letter that it’s asking community groups and Londoners to send out.
The letter criticizes the lack of support from the mayor and government, saying that a cash infusion of £66,000 would at least help return the floats to the parade.
“I am concerned that unlike the Olympic organizers, support has fallen short from the Mayor of London and the Government for Pride London as the organisers of World Pride 2012. A lack of decisive support from the GLA and the Government coupled with very negative coverage in the media has cost the organiser around £85k in sponsorship income as investors become nervous,” Consortium CEO Paul Roberts says in the letter.
“My concern is for the community groups, the young people and everyone that has put in so much work to make the parade on Saturday 7 July a spectacular example of the diverse and flourishing LGBT communities here in the UK.”
Roberts says financial support for barriers, security, traffic management and health and safety measures would ensure the parade, as originally conceived, is salvaged.
But others are laying the blame for WorldPride’s woes on poor leadership, saying “wholesale change” is necessary moving forward.
In a June 29 opinion piece on Pink News, former Pride London associate director James-J Walsh says the organization needs to look inward to find the source of the problems.
“Pride London have chosen to blame the UK economic climate. This week, Madrid will be putting on a bigger and better Pride and given their national economic circumstances, it is insulting to our intelligence, that they really think they can palm this off on the economy,” Walsh writes.
“Pride London’s press statement failed to apologise or even acknowledge the difficulties they have now put both the charities and community groups that were planning to take part in WorldPride,” he writes. “Many at time of writing are probably still blissfully unaware that the plans for scores of volunteers and attendees they were planning to bring to London for the event will now, with less than nine days to go, have to be scrapped or significantly altered. Cost of hiring and preparing floats and costumes just written off, and the chance for significant campaigning and fundraising destroyed.”
This is the first time London is playing host to WorldPride, which draws queer people from all around the world for a parade, rally and human rights conference.
Xtra interviewed Kevin Beaulieu, Pride Toronto's executive director, about the sudden scaleback in London's WorldPride events and how that might affect planning for Toronto's WorldPride celebration, in 2014. Watch the video: