1999 August

Dr. Værnet – British Military Collusion?

What rôle did the British military authorities play in the escape from justice after WWII of Nazi war criminal Dr. Carl Peter Værnet, perpetrator of gruesome experiments on gay prisoners in the Buchenwald and Neuengamme concentration camps?

John Harding
HB (A) MOD
Historical Records Branch
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
London SW1

19 August 1999

Dear John Harding,

NAZI WAR CRIMINAL – SS Sturmbannführer DR. VÆRNET
I am writing to request your help to discover how and why the Danish Nazi doctor, Carl Peter Værnet, was released from the jurisdiction of the British military authorities after the end of the Second World War, and the reason the British military authorities never sought to put him on trial for war crimes.

Dr. Værnet was a Danish citizen, born on 28 April 1893. He served in SS, with the rank of Sturmbannführer (variously listed as SS-Runen – SS 1792 and SS 1809). He is recorded as having worked under the personal directions of the head of Gestapo, Heinrich Himmler, conducting barbaric medical experiments -including castration and forced hormonal implants- on gay concentration camp prisoners at Buchenwald and Neuengamme.

Dr. Værnet’s role in the medical abuse and deaths of gay prisoners is documented in the archives at the International Tracing Service at Arolsen (example: ITS Arolsen, book 36, folder 405), and at the Berlin Document Centre.

Mention of his experiments is made in a report written soon after the liberation of Buchenwald by Eugen Kogon for the US Army Psychological Warfare Division.

His medical malpractices involving gay inmates are also cited in the books The Pink Triangle by Richard Plant (Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh 1987) and Hidden Holocaust? by Dr. Günter Grau (Cassell, London 1995).

Dr. Værnet’s gruesome experiments on gay internees are further reported in the German documentary film Wir hatten ein grosses ‘A’ am Bein (We Were Marked With A Big ‘A’), directed by Elke Jeonrond and Joseph Weishaupt, and made for NDR. in 1991 by Mediengruppe Schwabing Filmproduktion.

According to my information, at the end of the war Dr. Værnet was captured by the British Army and interned in the British-run Alsgade Skole prisoner-of-war camp in Copenhagen.

On 29 May 1945, the chairman of the Danish Medical Association sent the Danish Ministry of Justice an affidavit signed by a Danish police officer who had been incarcerated in Buchenwald. This affidavit identified Værnet as having been a serving SS officer involved in war crimes. Were the British military authorities aware of this affidavit and other allegations of war crimes against Dr. Værnet?

In the autumn of 1945, the British military authorities handed over Dr. Værnet to the Danish authorities. Precisely what these authorities did with him is uncertain. Why was he handed over?

It is known that Dr. Værnet was eventually transferred to a hospital, on the grounds that he was allegedly suffering from a heart complaint (which may have been fictional in order to facilitate his release from detention). When did this transfer take place? Did the British military authorities agree the transfer?

Dr. Værnet is said to have told fellow doctors that his heart trouble could only be treated in Sweden. Astonishingly, despite being accused of war crimes, Dr. Værnet was allowed by the Danish (and British?) authorities to travel to Sweden.

In Sweden, he contacted the Nazi escape network, which spirited him away to Argentina, probably in late 1946 or early 1947.

On 19 November 1947, the Copenhagen newspaper, Berlingske Tidende, carried a letter from a Danish exile living in Argentina which reported that Dr. Værnet was working in the Buenos Aires health department. He remained living there openly until his death in 1965.

Could you please investigate:

  1. Why the British military authorities fail to put Dr. Værnet on trial on charges of war crimes, alongside other Nazi doctors?
  2. For what reason did the British military authorities release Dr. Værnet -a wanted war criminal- from their jurisdiction?
  3. Into whose custody, and under what conditions, did the British military authorities release Dr. Værnet?
  4. Did the British military authorities play any rôle in authorising Dr. Værnet’s transfer to a Danish hospital and his trip to Sweden?

Your help in answering these questions would be very much appreciated.

Yours with thanks,

Peter Tatchell

Dr. Værnet – Danish Correspondence

Recent correspondence between the Danish authorities (Department of Justice and National Archives) and OutRage! on tracing the Nazi war criminal Dr. Carl Peter Vaernet.

Letter from the Danish Ministry of Justice, 6-July-1999

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
Civil and Police Department
Police Division
DK 1216 KØBENHAVN K., DENMARK

OutRage!

6 JULI 1999

Our ref. 1999-945-1188

By letter of 16 March 1998 OutRage! requested the help of the Danish Government to discover the fate of Carl Peter Værnet, a Nazi doctor who fled to Argentina after the Second World War. The Prime Minister forwarded the request by letter of 8 June 1999 to the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice can inform you that the records from that period are kept in the Danish National Archives (Rigsarkivet) and in provincial archives and the ministry is therefore not in possession of any information about Carl Peter Værnet. The Ministry of Justice has today forwarded your letter to Rigsarkivet, Rigsdagsgården 9, 1218 København K., for its consideration.

Attention is drawn to the fact that in certain circumstances, inter alia regarding information relating to the private conditions of individual persons and to criminal justice cases, the expiry of the time-limit as to when access can be granted is 80 years. However, under certain circumstances this time-limit can be exempted from. Requests for exemption should be directed to the Archives concerned.

Best regards,

Mogens Kjærgaard Møller

Reply to the Danish Ministry of Justice, 9-July-1999

Mogens Kjærgaard Møller
Police Division
Civil & Police Department
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
DK 1216 København K
Denmark

9 July 1999

HUB00244 Your Ref: 1999-945-1188

Dear Mogens Kjærgaard Møller

Greetings!

DR. CARL VÆRNET – WAR CRIMES & CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
Thanks for your letter dated 6 July 1999. I appreciate your kindness in replying in English. My apologies for being unable to write to you in Danish.

While OutRage! is grateful for your response, we are very concerned at the length of time it has taken to reply to our letter of 16 March 1998 (more than a year!), and at the unsatisfactory nature of the reply.

With respect, it is not adequate to refer us to the Danish National Archives. Our request is not a matter for archivists or historians. It concerns the bringing to justice of a Nazi doctor who, on the known evidence, perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity, contrary to international law. Other Nazi doctors who committed similar barbarisms were put on trial at Nuremberg (Nürnberg) and either sentenced to death or to long periods of imprisonment.

The Danish government has a moral and legal obligation to investigate and uncover the full truth about Dr. Værnet’s alleged involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity. It also has a duty to investigate how Dr. Værnet escaped trial and punishment at the end of the 1939-45 war, including how he managed to evade justice and who aided his escape to Argentina.

None of these questions, raised in our letter of 16 March 1998 to the Danish Prime Minister, have been answered.

I would therefore ask you to reconsider our three-page letter of 16 March 1998 (a copy follows). Please reply to all 7 questions on page three. Thank you and best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell

Letter from the Danish National Archives, 15-July-1999

Statens Arkiver Rigsarkivet

Lokaltelefon Reference Journalnummer Dato
MM-JPN 1999-6131.1331 1999-07-15

OutRage!

The Danish National Archives (the Rigsarkivet) has 6 July 1999 received your letter of 16 March 1998 concerning information on the Nazi doctor Carl Peter Væmet. As you will know from the reply by the Ministry of Justice your letter was forwarded to the Rigsarkivet.

In reply we can inform you that the Rigsarkivet cannot undertake investigation of the kind involved. Normally people visit our reading room, where the staff help to examine the records. But in this case, according to the Danish Archival Act, an exemption from the 80 years limit of access, is a first condition for any examination of the documents on Væmet.

However, we have identified relevant files among the records delivered from the Ministry of Justice, the Rigsadvokaten (the Danish State’s solicitor) and the the Rigspolitiet (the State Police), but -still according to the Archival Act- the Rigsarkivet is not allowed to grant an exemption from the limit of access without permission from the mentioned authorities. Before we ask these authorities for consent as to an exemption, we need some more information on your purpose of the investigation.

For further information on the Rigsarkivet we suggest you to visit our website (http://www.sa.dk) which also includes an English version. [It appears that the only English on this site is the title. -- 18th August, OutRage!]

Yours sincerely,

Margit Mogensen
Archivist
The Public Department

Reply to the Danish National Archives, 17-July-1999

Archivist
The Public Department
Statens Arkiver Rigsarkivet

17 July 1999

Your Ref: MM-JPN Journalnummer 1999-6131.1331

Dear Margit Mogensen,

DR. CARL VÆRNET — WAR CRIMES & CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
Thanks for your letter dated 15 July 1999. I appreciate your kindness in replying in English. My apologies for being unable to write to you in Danish.

While OutRage! is grateful for your response, the investigation of the Nazi doctor, Carl Værnet, is not my responsibility or that of the Rigsarkivet. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice to investigate criminal acts.

It is alleged that Dr. Værnet, a Danish citizen, perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity in violation of international law, during the Nazi era.

He stands accused of medically abusing, torturing and murdering homosexual prisoners interned in Nazi-run concentration camps. Other Nazi doctors who committed similar barbarisms were put on trial at Nuremberg and sentenced to death or imprisonment.

My request is for the opening of a criminal investigation, with a view to the prosecution of Dr. Værnet (if he is still alive).

The Ministry of Justice has a moral and legal obligation to investigate and uncover the full truth about Dr. Værnet’s alleged involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It also has a duty to investigate and explain how Dr. Værnet escaped Danish jurisdiction after the war, and to bring to trial those Danish citizens who aided the escape of this alleged war criminal.

I would therefore respectfully request that you refer my letter back to the Ministry of Justice, and that it replies in full to the 7 questions set out on page three of my letter of 16 March 1998 to the Danish Prime Minister. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell.

Letter to the Danish Ministry of Justice, 17-July-1999

Police Division
Civil and Police Department
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
Denmark

17 July 1999

Your Ref: HUB00244 1999-945-1188

Dear Mogens Kjærgaard Møller,

Further to my fax of 9 July 1999, there follows a copy of the letter I have faxed today to Margit Mogensen at the Statens Arkiver Rigsarkivet.

I would take this opportunity to reiterate that what I am seeking is a criminal investigation into:

allegations that Dr. Værnet committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, with a view to his prosecution (if he is still alive);
allegations that Danish citizens aided and abetted Dr. Værnet’s escape to Argentina, with a view to those responsible being prosecuted (if they are still alive).
These are matters that can only be dealt with by the Ministry of Justice.

I would be grateful to receive your assurance that a criminal investigation will now be opened, and that you will give me a copy of its findings and decisions in due course.

Thank you for your continuing assistance.

Warmest wishes,

Peter Tatchell.

U.S. Toy Giant ERTL Rethinks Links with Monckton

Top U.S. toy maker, the IIlinois-based ERTL company, is dropping British right-wing commentator Christopher Monckton, following revelations by OutRage! that he has advocated that everyone with HIV should be quarantined “compulsorily, immediately and permanently” (American Spectator, January 1987).

Monckton is the designer of ERTL’s new puzzle game, Eternity, which is expected to net the company over £ 10 million in sales. It was due to be launched in the U.S. next week, and Monckton was expected to attend the glitzy launch event in New York. That event may now be postponed or cancelled.

“We will be making (sic) steps to have no further dealings with respect to the promotion and marketing of the puzzle utilising Christopher Monckton”, wrote Martin Richards, ERTL’s Director of Marketing in Britain. He was responding to inquiries from journalist Matthew Christian of the London gay newspaper Axiom News.

ERTL say they agreed to manufacture and market Monckton’s money-spinning game without realising that he had proposed the “isolation” of up to 3 million Americans and 30,000 Britons with HIV.

“We were unaware of Christopher Monckton’s reported beliefs”, Richards told Axiom News. “These are not the views of our company who (sic) prides itself on being an equal opportunities employer.”

ERTL are still, at this stage, refusing to cancel their contract with Monckton.

“ERTL’s decision to dump Monckton from its promotional campaigns is good news. But so long as his contract stands, Monckton will continue to make millions”, said Peter Tatchell of the London-based gay rights group, OutRage!, which is spearheading the campaign. “It is unacceptable for ERTL to profit from someone who wants all people with HIV incarcerated for the rest of their lives.”

“Although ERTL claims it cannot revoke its deal with Monckton, company contracts normally have get-out clauses that allow termination if a signatory says or does things that bring the company into disrepute. ERTL should invoke that clause to cancel its deal with Monckton.”

“The Bank of Scotland made similar pleas that it was unable to pull out of its contract with right-wing U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson. However, as soon as the campaign against Robertson became high-profile and effective, the Bank of Scotland found a way of ditching him. We hope ERTL will follow suit”, said Tatchell.

Meanwhile, mystery and confusion surround Christopher Monckton. According to ERTL: “We have a contractual agreement between ourselves and Yearfarm Trading & Investments Limited, not Christopher Monckton”.

At Companies House, Yearfarm is not listed. It does not exist, according to their records. When asked by Private Eye magazine where Yearfarm was based, and for a contact name and phone number, both ERTL and Monckton refused to comment. Monckton also declined to say whether Yearfarm was his company and whether he held shares or directorships in Yearfarm.

Monckton claims that Peter Tatchell and OutRage! have been reported to Exeter CID with a view to prosecution. But Exeter police told Private Eye they have no knowledge of any complaint, and no record of any criminal investigation.

Monckton denies being homophobic. Yet he has boasted that “what homosexuals do to each other … is wildly unnatural and repulsive in the extreme” (as reported in Private Eye, 4 December 1992).

“While ERTL maintains its association with Monckton, the OutRage! campaign will continue. We are publicising our campaign with AIDS, gay and human rights groups across the United States. ERTL and other companies need to be reminded that bigotry is unethical and bad for business”, said Tatchell.

OutRage! has circulated details to U.S. chapters of the AIDS activist group ACT UP, and to the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal Defense, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the People With AIDS Coalition.

Monckton’s repressive views are wildly out of step with government, medical and human rights opinion. The only organisations that share his solution to the AIDS crisis are fascist and neo-Nazi groups.

The Ertl Company
P.O. Box 500
Dyersville, IA 52040-0500, USA.
Phone: +1-319-875-2000
Fax: +1-319-875-5674
E-mail: consumer_services@ertltoys.com

The Future of Pride / Mardi Gras – OutRage!’s Proposals

FOR DISCUSSION WITHIN THE L/G/B/T COMMUNITY
Presented to Pride (London) Committee and London Mardi Gras on 30 July 1999, and circulated to lesbian and gay community organisations and individuals for consultation and discussion.

MAIN PROPOSALS – A SUMMARY

  • reverse the march route to hold a post-march festival in Hyde Park on Saturday, and switch the main festival to Sunday
  • make “Partnership Rights” the theme for 2000
  • bring both the march and festival under community control
  • give GLF veterans pride of place next year (the 30th anniversary of GLF)
  • keep the festival free
  • ensure a wider diversity of main stage acts to reflect the diversity of our community and its interests

MARDI GRAS – A SUCCESS?

Mardi Gras 1999 was run by a self-appointed gay business consortium. They justified the heavy commercialisation of the event, claiming it was necessary to ensure financial viability and success. But the truth is that Mardi Gras was not as successful as the last community-run Pride march and festival. Despite its faults, Pride ‘97 got nearly 100,000 people on the march and 300,000 at Clapham Common. Mardi Gras, in contrast, had only 25,000 marchers and only 65,000 at Finsbury Park. Mainstream media coverage was down too. Moreover, Mardi Gras made a staggering loss of nearly £ 500,000 (compared to cumulative losses, over several years, of £ 160,000 by Pride ‘97).

THE KEY MISTAKES

What went wrong? Mardi Gras was over-commercialised, de-gayed, profit-driven and de-politicised. The 78-page official programme contained only three minor references to it being a lesbian and gay event. There was no sign above the stage at Finsbury Park identifying Mardi Gras as a gay festival or supporting our claim for human rights. Naked commercialism was exemplified by:

  • the confiscation of food and drink from festival-goers as they entered Finsbury Park;
  • the high price of stalls, which excluded most non-profit organisations;
  • the lack of community-input into decision-making;
  • and the £ 10 entry charge to the festival.

These mean-spirited policies killed off the community spirit and loyalty that inspired Pride for 28 years. Not making the 30th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots a centrepiece of Mardi Gras was a lost opportunity for big-time media coverage.

A NEW DIRECTION FOR 2000 & BEYOND

THE NAME

The rebranding of Pride as Mardi Gras should be scrapped. It was imposed without the agreement of the L/G/B/T community. Why copy Sydney and steal from Manchester? Let’s keep the name Pride and be proud of its history – or come up with an entirely new and original name, something unique to London, perhaps incorporating Pride in the title.

COMMUNITY CONTROL

The Mardi Gras organisers assume that a private business consortium should run the event. But many of us believe Pride is a L/G/B/T community celebration and should be controlled by the community for everyone’s benefit, not private profit. OutRage! wants the march and festival run by a representative, democratic committee of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community groups, working in partnership with gay businesses and individual lesbians and gays. This community coalition should take the key policy decisions, and appoint professional experts to administer the event.

The Mardi Gras organisation has provided no mechanism for community groups to influence, let alone determine, the content and structure of the festival. In contrast, the Pride (London) March Committee did, at least, hold outreach meetings, which were an attempt at consultation. But they failed, largely because there was a widespread perception that these meetings were, first and foremost, PR exercises, with pre-determined decisions being presented as a fait accompli. Whatever the intention of Pride (London), most people who attended the outreach meetings felt that they were not able to impact on its policies in a meaningful way. Despite this criticism, the potential of Pride (London) is basically sound. Unlike the Mardi Gras organisation, which is a private business venture, the Pride (London) March Committee is a membership organisation that individuals and groups can join, and thereby elect committee members and make policy. At the Pride (London) Open Meeting on 24 July, OutRage! proposed the calling of an Extraordinary General Meeting to elect a new, expanded 12-member March Committee, representing a broad cross-section of the L/G/B/T community. This was agreed by the existing committee, and the EGM is now scheduled for 16 October, with all interested L/G/B/T community groups and individuals being invited to attend. It is our hope that this new March Committee will reflect the diversity of the L/G/B/T community, and command the democratic authority and accountability required to organise a successful, large, high-profile march next year.

OutRage! is also proposing that this reconstituted Pride (London) Committee should seek consultative status with the Mardi Gras organisation, and secure Mardi Gras’s agreement on the holding of monthly consultation meetings to discuss key policy decisions regarding the planning of the festival. This grassroots input is a vital precondition for Mardi Gras to win community confidence and support.

HUMAN RIGHTS AGENDA

The last thing OutRage! seeks is a dull, dour Pride/Mardi Gras. Why can’t we have a combination of fun and politics? Keep the carnival atmosphere, but give our campaign against discrimination a higher profile. Pride/Mardi Gras ought to have a specific human rights theme. This should feature in all advertising and press handouts, on the lead banner on the march, and as a giant slogan above the main stage at the festival. Vague themes such as “Equality Through Diversity”, although well intended, do not work. They are too ill-defined, and offer no news angle for journalists. No wonder media reporting is so poor! Having a very clear, concrete human rights theme would give the event a stronger focus and improve the likelihood of news coverage.

HUMAN RIGHTS THEME FOR 2000

OutRage! suggests that the human rights theme for Pride/Mardi Gras 2000 should be partnership rights. This is an issue with broad appeal within the L/G/B/T community, and it is also one that many heterosexuals can understand and empathise with. Most importantly, it is a fairly new issue. There has been relatively little campaigning around partnership rights in Britain, and Pride/Mardi Gras could be a way of putting it on the public agenda. Because partnership rights would be a fresh campaign, the media are more likely to cover it. And since it is a specific demand, it gives marchers plenty of scope for partnership-related costumes and floats.

FLOATS ON THE MARCH

The police are refusing to allow motorised floats on the march. This ban has to be fought and overturned, as both the Notting Hill Carnival and the Lord Mayor’s Parade have police-sanctioned floats. In the meantime, we can still have hand-pulled floats. We urge the organisers of Pride/Mardi Gras to fund a float workshop to design and build simple, light-weight mobile platforms that can be decorated and hand-pulled on the march by 4 – 6 people. These platforms should be made available free of charge (or for a nominal £ 50) to community groups.

FESTIVAL LOCATION

Ideally, the march should go to the festival, so that the two events are fully integrated, with the festival not starting until the march has finished. This reintegration of the march and festival is a difficult objective to achieve, given the limited options for festival sites.

The ultimate festival site is Hyde Park, with the current march route being reversed: starting at Embankment and going to Hyde Park. Under current regulations, the use of Hyde Park would probably preclude the sale of alcohol and many other items normally sold at the festival. Dance tents and fun-fairs would, mostly definitely, be refused. Only the sale of food, soft drinks and some official merchandising would be acceptable to the Hyde Park authorities. This may, of course, change in the future. In recent years, officials at Hyde Park have become a little more flexible about the selling of goods and (very occassionally) alcohol. Using Hyde Park under existing regulations would, therefore, involve a major rethink about the nature of the festival.

A TWO-DAY MARCH & FESTIVAL

One idea is to split the festival into two separate elements on two separate days – the march followed by a new-style, post-march festival in Hyde Park on Saturday, and a more traditional-style, all-day Pride/Mardi Gras festival somewhere like Clapham Common on Sunday. The Saturday events would be run wholly by Pride (London) as a non-profit community celebration, and the Sunday event would be staged by London Mardi Gras in consultation with Pride (London).

SATURDAY MARCH & CONCERT IN HYDE PARK

With a reintegrated march and festival, ending in Hyde Park, the march would start at Embankment and proceed to Hyde Park via Parliament Square, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly, culminating with “FREEDOM IN THE PARK” – a four-hour concert for L/G/B/T human rights in Hyde Park, from 4 to 8 p.m..

To get the necessary permissions, this festival would have to be non-commercial, community-oriented and branded under a human rights theme. Its success would depend on securing at least one big-name, broad-appeal entertainer, such as Diana Ross, Elton John, Lesley Garrett or George Michael. As well as musical performers, the concert would include human rights speeches from leading celebrities, politicians and community representatives. If this event is organised around a human rights theme, with a wide appeal, it may be possible to avoid commercial charges by Hyde Park officials. However, if they insist on charging for use of the park, the post-march festival may have to be a paid-for event. In this eventuality, to maintain accessibility, ticket prices should be kept to around £ 5, (with corporate sponsorship, advertising, and food, drink and merchandising concessions being used to pay for any shortfall).

To avoid clashing with the annual Prince’s Trust event in Hyde Park, the date of the Saturday march and festival may have to be moved either forward or backward a week.

SUNDAY FESTIVAL

The following day, Sunday, the more traditional-style Pride/Mardi Gras festival would take place, and be a full day event with a full range of activities, including fun-fairs, dance tents, stalls and so on. It could be held at Clapham Common, Finsbury Park or elsewhere, starting at 12 noon and continuing through until 10 p.m.. By making Pride/Mardi Gras into a two-day event, it would encourage people to come to London from all over the country and all over the world.

MAIN STAGE AT THE MARDI GRAS FESTIVAL

With regard to the line-up on the main stage at the Mardi Gras festival: the main stage has been mostly a one-dimensional, mono-culture of dance music. This excludes and alienates the many lesbians and gay men who don’t identify with that style of entertainment. To be fully inclusive and cater for the diversity of our communities, performances from the main stage need to be more various and wide-ranging. One solution is to bracket the performances into one-hour segments: comedy, pop and classical, each with a different appeal. The main stage staple of disco divas and boy bands is fine, but it could be augmented with opera singers, comedians, pianists, choirs, dancers and chamber orchestras. Those who don’t like whatever is on the main stage at a particular moment can slope off to the fun-fair or to the cabaret, dance or classical tents.

In order to maintain a strong community, non-commercial feel to the festival, it is very important that every hour or so there are brief speeches from celebrities and relevant community representatives on the human rights theme of the year. All stage performers should be asked to say a few words, during song-breaks, in support of the event’s human rights theme.

GLF VETERANS

2000 is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the lesbian and gay liberation movement in Britain. This was a watershed moment in queer history and consciousness. Veterans from the Gay Liberation Front should lead next year’s Pride March, and speak from the main stage at the Festival.

FOOD & DRINK PRICING

As well as allowing festival-goers to bring their own food and drink, the festival organisers should insist on price limits for drinks, in order to stop unreasonable rip-off charges. This could be achieved by inserting price caps into the contractual agreements with people who take out drink concession licences.

STALLS

The festival is an important opportunity for L/G/B/T community groups to advertise their activities and fund-raise. For non-profit community groups, stalls should be either free or be available for a nominal price of £ 30.

ACCESS & OPTIONS

The guiding festival principles should be accessibility and inclusivity. It should cater for all sections of our community. This means full disabled access and provision (viewing platform, toilets and so on). It also means tents to cater specifically for women and people of colour, and tents for cabaret and classical music. There should be no “18 and over” age limit on people admitted to the festival (as happened at the Mardi Gras festival this year).

KEEP THE FESTIVAL FREE

If Pride/Mardi Gras is to be a fully accessible community festival, it must be free. People from outside of London spend a fortune on fares. The extra burden of an entry fee is unfair. Charging admission also excludes people on low-incomes. Pride/Mardi Gras should be about community solidarity, not commercialism.

FUNDING THE MARCH & FESTIVAL

Critics of the idea of a free festival are wrong to suggest that it is not financially viable. It could be funded as follows:

  • voluntary donations (£ 150,000 was collected at Pride ‘97)
  • the sale of licences for food, drink, fun-fair, stalls and dance tents (£150,000)
  • corporate sponsorship from big-name, gay-friendly companies (£150,000)
  • a post-festival all-night dance party at Olympia with 25,000 people paying £20 each (£500,000)
  • a similar massive dance party in mid-Winter (£500,000).

Grand total: £1.45 million. With these funds, the festival can be free and Pride/Mardi Gras could even raise money for gay charities.

PRIDE ARTS FESTIVAL

This needs to become a higher profile, more integral part of the Pride/Mardi Gras celebrations. The first priority is to locate all the PAF events in a single big-name, large-capacity venue, such as the South Bank Centre or Bloomsbury Theatre. The second priority is for PAF to act as a showcase for a combination of well known and up-and-coming L/G/B/T performers, with a mix of theatre, song, dance, film, comedy and art.

OutRage! offers these constructive proposals as a contribution to the debate within our community on the future direction of Pride/Mardi Gras. We welcome comments and feedback.

FOOTNOTE – MEETING ON SATURDAY, 16TH OCTOBER

At a public meeting on Saturday, 24th July, the Directors of Pride London agreed to hold a public consultation on the future of the Pride March / Parade.

This will be held in London, on Saturday, 16th October, at a venue to be announced. All L/B/G/T groups and interested individuals are invited to attend. — Membership of Pride costs £ 10, (£ 5 concessions).

FOOTNOTE – MEETING ON FRIDAY, 1st OCTOBER

The “London Mardi Gras Parade Community Forum” is holding its next meeting on Friday, 1st October, from 6 – 8 p.m..

This is open to all L/G/B/T community groups. Any group not having already received an invitation is invited to ring Paul Craig on 020-76.88.01.10 to book places. Disabled access is guaranteed at all meetings.

FOOTNOTE – MANCHESTER MARDI GRAS – A READER’S COMMENT

Now we need to make the same suggestions for Manchester’s event, which was a commercial opportunity, not a real community event. As an ex- Londoner, I found it very disappointing indeed. The parade was entirely composed of motorised floats advertising businesses or groups, but had no section for ordinary individual LGBT people representing themselves in all their personal glory. Thus it is a spectator event, not a participatory one. And since there were no pedestrians with banners, any small group wanting to representing itself had to fork out for a float, and then attempt to be worth looking at, which some just didn’t!

The rest of the weekend was largely directed at young drinkers and clubbers with money – the pledgeband costing £ 8/10. So nowhere did we actually see the whole LGBT community out in all its diversity. And not a shred of political awareness either. It needs to go to a park in the future, so that children can come and run about, and those not interested in drink and dance can picnic instead.

The best part of my weekend was joining in behind an AIDS charity float with a sound system and dancing the last half mile into the Village, followed by an hour or more of drinking Coke (bought at a straight pub not participating in the pledgeband scheme) and people watching in Canal Street. But when I returned for a bit more of this on Monday night, the whole area was screened off and out of bounds to those without Pledgebands. Pledgebands are a good idea, but £ 8 is too expensive. They could cost £ 4/5 if the festival was less ambitious and showy and more a DIY community event.

Catherine, Manchester.

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