This year’s Pride celebrations have been drastically cut back, hacking some of the best bits such as outdoor drinking, big glittery floats and anything happening in Soho (unfortunately, Boy George will still be performing)
The reason? Not enough money. Boris Johnson cut thousands from the Pride budget, and the corporate sponsors haven’t dug deep enough in their pockets to provide the money required to pay for policing and relevant permissions for floats, according to a statement from Pride London.
The writers of the statement are, correctly, furious about the corporate mess that Pride has become, in particular the fact that vast amounts of money are needed for Pride to go ahead and they are dependent on allowing businesses to whack their name all over the event to procure this. The statement writers suggest a need for discussion about how things could work in the future, although the only thing proposed here is more “openness and accountability” as if this is the magic bullet to fix everything.
The statement, while making some good points, ultimately attempts to offend no-one. This is a pervasive problem with queer rights campaigning on the whole: in the determination not to rock the boat, we are hopelessly cast adrift. The mainstream control the discourse and we are obliged to answer them on their own terms. This has lead to a distinct lack of imagination from the queer community in our demands: we ask for “equality” in a way which translates to merely “blending in with the heteros”.
Pride was once all about defiance, angry queers being unabashedly visible, a movement growing out of the Stonewall riots. These days, everything seems to be precisely targeted at avoiding offending the straights.
For Pride to work in the future we need to return to these radical roots. The original marches did not need money or corporate sponsorship. There was no need to set up a big stage to showcase pop stars: that wasn’t what it was about. It was about freedom and liberation.
We also shouldn’t be paying for our own policing. The police will show up whether we want them there or not; their presence makes nothing safer with them shepherding us from A to B. The same goes for floats. If we want to build a big fuckoff float and shut down a road, we absolutely don’t need to bother with paying for this.
We have pandered for long enough, hampered by our lack of imagination. In the years since Stonewall, we have moved to a larger cell, and that’s it. It’s time for a real change.