As promised The Pride Trust has read and considered your open letter.
Despite the emotive phrases “dumbing down” and “de-gaying Pride”, to which we take particular offence, we believe your general comments to be constructive.
With performers it is nigh impossible to insist that they make a political statement prior to their set. We can suggest, advise and prompt but they have other things on their minds. In some cases the fact of their appearance at the event is in their own minds sufficient proof of their support for the event and what it stands for. As to what they say to the media after or before they perform — again we have little control, but they are given the full story on the event and its history. If they choose to ignore us, we don’t generally have them back, (except the Minogues who seem to recur spontaneously).
A theme for the event is a very good way of capturing attention, undoubtedly. OutRage! has been involved in, some might say responsible for, the themes of 1994 (Freedom and Equality Now) and 1995 (Lesbian Visibility), both of which grew out of discussions I myself had with members of OutRage!. I believe we part on the question of the focus of these themes. It remains The Pride Trust’s policy to create themes which are broad and which can encourage individual groups and sectors of the gay community to highlight the issues raised in the theme as they affect their constituency. I am sure you feel that this is an adequate response; however, I would equally say that a theme of the kind you indicate also has its limitations, tending more towards a single-issue form of political statement, whereas Pride is a broad church with many issues contending for attention. It remains a balancing act and one which I do not profess to say we have resolved. I recall in 1994 that this was also OutRage!’s feeling and that the Freedom and Equality Now Theme was itself subdivided to encourage this single-issue element as well. I also recall that, following the 1994 March, OutRage! was so exhausted that you declined to do the same again in 1995, the Lesbian Avengers taking the lead that year. If however you feel strong enough to assist us in finding a theme or focus which satisfies all approaches and carry it through, I and Rachel Beadle, the Chair, would be pleased to meet your representatives and bash some ideas around.
I recall that placards were made available for both 1994 and 1995 — I believe also that there was some feeling that they weren’t as effective as we had all hoped, so we haven’t repeated them since. This too would be a good discussion point, should you wish to meet.
A banner on the stage is an excellent idea –and in fact there was one– but it was a little small! This is a simple problem we can rectify in 1998.
Finally, sponsorship. Again I am bound to repeat a point which I know you do not agree with: that sponsorship is necessary to subsidise the free entry to the festival — even with a day collection of £ 238,000 it still has to be there, otherwise all the Pride-goers would be paying £ 10 or £ 15 a head! No doubt your point refers to United Airlines. I fully accept that they do not apply equal employment rights across the board: but they are not alone as a multinational concern in having to settle these issues. It is Pride’s policy to scrutinise the business activities of its sponsors with some care. The United Airlines sponsorship was brokered at a time when they had had little cause to reflect on their policy in this area, and it is an issue which has arisen during the course of the year, and we are in the process of considering their continued sponsorship of the event in the light of this. Indeed, internationally there are a number of Pride Events which have been caught out in just the same way with sponsors and business partners who have been slow to connect their sponsorship support of a gay event with the treatment of their own staff and their business interests. — I am particularly thinking of Coors in the US which has divided the Pride Organisers into pro and anti.
As a sobering aside, our and your dislike of a paying event seems not to be reflected by those people who participated in the South Bank University Survey carried out at the event this year. 30% agreed strongly that it should be a paying event; 20% agreed slightly; and 19% didn’t care either way. Only 15% strongly disagreed. We were also surprised to find that only 19% of the sample consider Pride to be political! These are all initial results and the statisticians at SBU are currently carrying out further work with the respondants to ascertain whether the results are, in their words, “robust” or not. There is a great deal of food for thought in these figures, as I am sure you will agree.
I look forward to hearing from you and to meeting you if you feel it will be constructive.
On behalf of The Pride Trust Directors
OutRage! has responded to the Pride Trust, thanking them for their position statement, and accepting the offer of a meeting.