Pride and Profit

Issue 81

This originally appeared in BCN issue 81, Sept 2006

London hosted EuroPride at the start of July bringing a major boost to one of the two biggest Pride events in the UK (competing with Manchester each year for the prize).  The new London Bisexuals banner flew alongside the BiFest banner, both reinforcing the “wear purple for Pride” theme that had been arranged beforehand.  A stall afterwards helped get the message out to the revellers about things like BiCon (two weeks away at the time) and the Bisexual Underground.  London Pride seems to have managed to move away from the excesses of the commercial event it had become and got back some of the political bite: sadly that is not the same everywhere.

Earlier in the summer, Birmingham Bi Women had boycotted their Pride event on account of spiralling commercialism since the Birmingham Gay Business Partnership had taken over: as well as paying to get into the festival area, attendees were to be prevented from taking any food or drink onto the site to maximise profit for the traders who had been sold the chance to sell to those taking part in the event.

As bags and pockets were to be searched for “banned items” even if you weren’t bringing in a contraband bottle of tap water you might not feel too welcome: do you really want to explain to an event bouncer what those tablets are and why you need to have them with you in front of a long line of strangers?

In mid-August, Cambridge Pride had a bi stall too for the first time in a few years.  Sadly, this was just as we were going to press so no photos yet!

Brighton Summer Pride saw Brighton Bothways bi group out in force and wielding fences.  As well as appearing on the parade they ran a community stall with balloons in the colours of the bi flag (pink, purple and blue), assorted BCN backnumbers, some of the old “bispotting flyers” from BiCon 2004 re-stickered to offer more up to date information, flyers for their group and a bi picnic the next week, copies of Both Directions, and lollipops.  That’d be “well-stocked” then!

Manchester Pride is just days away as we go to print – see inset box for some of their plans.  So far as we’re aware at BCN that’ll be the last Pride event of the season to have a bi presence; we’d love you to tell us we’re wrong though!

Like Birmingham, Manchester is heading perhaps too far into the commercial view of what a Pride festival is there for in the popular imagination.  On top of the now-long-running “buy a £15 wristband” entry requirement, and charging for floats on the parade, Manchester has a new twist: charging anyone who wants to join the parade at all.  This is on a flat “per organisation represented” basis, at £50 a time, so if you are part of a large group that might be a pound a head, but for small struggling groups who really gain from the potential visibility and collective cameraderie of taking part in a march, that might be £17 each for the three people who are able to join in.

Andrew Stokes, Chair of Manchester Pride felt enough pressure from the community to make a statement in July defending the decision on the grounds that you could have as many people as you wanted representing your organisation for the £50 fee, rather missing the point that it is the smaller groups that will be really hit by this.