IT’S OFFICIAL! A new GLBT festival is coming to NZ next year. Get ready for Auckland Pride.
The interim group that proposed Auckland Pride has had to keep the announcement under wraps for some time, but can now proudly come out with dates and events planned for 2013.
Interim chair Gresham Bradley has been part of the organisation since initial public consultation meetings were held last year. Now, Gresham is over the moon in announcing the event.
“The sponsorship from Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) is confirmed, the negotiations with council’s transport and police have been completed and parade options have been tabled.
“Big Gay Out will launch the festival on Sunday 10 February 2013 and the Auckland Pride parade will be on Saturday 16 February. We initially thought the parade would close the festival like Sydney, but the Lantern Festival is on the same weekend as the closing of Auckland Pride, so we’ve moved it to the central weekend. There is an expectation there will be some sort of celebratory event at the end of the festival, dependent on proposals.”
ATEED has come to the party with $100,000 for the event – this money is set out to cover parade costs and organisational costs to put together a festival programme and coordinate events such as Bear New Zealand Week and a host of community group events so that, as Gresham puts it, “like doesn’t overlap like”.
ATEED’s central interest, however, is putting on a highly visible festival that attracts visitors; to do this, Auckland Pride needs a parade.
Gresham says, “The parade is the one thing that we have in the contract as a deliverable. They asked us to meet with transport and police to vet all the options, dates, routes etc. ATEED is results-focused and want to see a major event for Auckland; an event that’s publicly open.”
Interim organiser Vaughan Meneses says, “ATEED’s key deliverables are that the event will be well run, attract numbers and attention and be sustainable. There’s not enough money in the pot to deliver everything we wanted to deliver, so we thought it would be better to do one thing and do it well. However, we know there are a lot of people who are already interested in putting on other cornerstone events.
“We’re working with logistics at the moment to figure out which parade route will be best for the community and for the viewing public and a final decision will be made soon.”
Gresham says that while Auckland Pride cannot fund any big events outside the parade, the organisational arm of the event will ensure success across the board.
“We’ll be seeking sponsorship but we’ll also be providing a whole communications plan and marketing / promotions umbrella under which the community can have confidence and know that we will support and help them very proactively market and sell any events they propose.
“The overall programme, website and really good comms represents a large part of any events cost and risk factor. And the advantage of an overall festival is that we can give organisations something they could not afford individually.”
Gresham says requests for proposals will be issued soon to find a festival coordinator, parade coordinator, sponsorship coordinator and website creator. A request for trustees with a range of skills has already gone out.
With a lot of buzz around the creation of the event, the organisers are preparing themselves to hear some negative attitudes from within the GLBT community and the wider community at large. One concern voiced around the initial consultation period was that Auckland Pride is open to suffering the same fate as Hero, which was critically injured by a mismanagement and what Gresham calls a “grievous criminal act” in the early 2000s.
“The Auckland Pride body is a governance body, whereas the former Hero was far more hands on,” says Gresham. “Financially, it’s a lot easier now than it used to be – everything’s online; that was not the situation in the former Hero days. We relied on a monthly statement – a lot could happen in a month… and it did.”
Gresham says ATEED has also been working closely with Auckland Pride to ensure the safety of participants and visitors is managed effectively.
“This consultation with ATEED has been long, but that’s not been because we’ve had problems, it’s been because they are so committed to supporting the festival and they want to make sure that this is done right – that communications are done right and that we don’t inadvertently trigger a bunch of anti-gay, homophobic viewpoints.
“However, a lot has changed in the years since the last Hero. We’re seeing acceptance at really general levels and that takes the tangible form of the Prime Minister being in support of an Auckland Pride festival. Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye is a force behind the creation of the festival in the first place, the Greens are fully supportive of us, as are the mayor and deputy mayor of Auckland. We’re getting cross-party support that wouldn’t have happened before. An open, tolerant and supportive mayor is a very key factor in ensuring that any opposition is obviously from extreme groups and does not represent the status quo. It’s a lot more difficult for people to spout evil nonsense when there is support from both sides.”
Connected communities are a key pillar of mayor Len Brown’s vision for the new Auckland and he says celebrations like Auckland Pride have an important role in making Auckland the world’s most liveable city.
“Our diversity is one of the things that make us great. We love celebrating it, whether it’s Matariki, Pasifika, Diwali, the Lantern Festival or now Pride,” Brown says. I am already a big fan of Big Gay Out. I look forward to being a part of the Pride festival.”
Gresham says the coming months will be an exciting time for a community that hasn’t had a chance to celebrate itself for quite some time.
“People want a festival back – it was the heart and the soul of the gay community in Auckland that was torn away from us. In a way, this funding gives us the chance to have our heart back.”
Vaughan says, “We talk about tangible visibility, and the one thing we’re cognisant of is that back in the Hero days was that sometimes the parade wasn’t about those of us who were out and proud, it was about the message we sent to people who might be living in rural places or the provinces and see that there is a place and a community where they belong. I think too often we focus in a really egocentric way, but we forget the message of pride, strength and visibility and the effects a festival can have, particularly on our young people.
“This is the beginning of a relationship with Auckland Council where we have the confidence to look not only at 2013, but beyond that. We can think about what this festival is going to mean to those involved and to those who need the beacon of hope that things are going to be okay.”
“It’s not just about giving the straight people an event where they can come and gawk at the queers doing silly things on floats,” Gresham laughs. “It’s about Pride!”
Photo | Mardi Gras Parade 2010 by Amie Wee