Monday, July 23, 2012

Pride returns to its roots?

 By Anton Johnson

THE OCCASION of the 40th anniversary of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) Pride in London was to host the jewel of World Pride; what should have been a large scale celebration was beset with financial woes and in the end at the 11th  hour the event had to be greatly reduced with the planned Soho side being cancelled.
            Though out of this debacle there has been a positive. First of all the march through central London without the floats had a more political feel to it and the trade union section was the best it has been for many years.
It began in Baker Street, packed from end to end with marchers dressed in a staggering array of imaginative costumes ranging from beautiful Filipino wedding array, Sikhs in magnificent blue silks, gladiators, fluffy swan outfits that were little more than paint and spangles and even members of the armed forces marching towards Trafalgar Square.
            It was unlike political demonstrations in that everyone present was having fun though there were political messages being delivered: against the cuts, in defence of the NHS and for gay marriage rights.
  Second, the shambles has ignited a debate about the future of Pride, which has drawn criticism over the years with Regard, the National Disabled LGBT organisation, once again boycotting the event.
 At the successful TUC LGBT Conference held the two days prior to Pride there was an emergency motion from the TUC LGBT Committee that was passed calling on the committee to host a public meeting to look at the future of Pride following the TUC press statement earlier in the week.
 That meeting, at Congress House on Monday, generated large scale interest within the LGBTQ communities. The view is that Pride should return to being a community-led event and political as a vehicle for LGBTQ liberation.
 LGBTQ groups, trade unionists and community activists looked at how we can return Pride to its roots and away from what has been a commercial event where the politics are watered down and groups such as Regard felt excluded.
 The meeting was timely as the commercial LGBTQ venue owner and club promoter Jeremy Joseph has called a meeting for the 25th  July to discuss Pride and this would be clearly dominated by the commercial interests.
            Thierry Schaffauser, from Left Front Art, addressed a public meeting in central London on the evening of Pride making the point that Pride needs to return to its roots at this time when austerity policies are harming LGBTQ people and that the meeting hosted by TUC LGBT Committee pushed for by grassroots LGBTQ activists in Left Front Art is an opportunity for this to happen.

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