England & Wales, Global Communities and society, Welfare and equalities

Building better Pride and local government relationships

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Steve Taylor is a man who knows Pride. Having worked at a senior level for Pride in London for nearly seven years, a board member of both national and the European Association of Pride organisers and now the Secretary General of Copenhagen Pride, he’s been around the block when it comes to organising pride events.

 


While Pride can look like a big party, Steve said “Pride is the biggest and most successful social justice movement in the world – the first Pride was a Carnival parade. It’s a protest with a smile on our faces or ‘activism in heels’.” In other cases, the mood is more serious and more focused on protest. Pride events in Norway were to be cancelled this year following a fatal shooting attack on a queer venue in Oslo. Citing safety and terrorism concerns, local police and municipal authorities recommended cancellation. In Oslo, people turned out and marched to city hall anyway, but it was a human rights demonstration rather than a festival.

Steve has seen both the good and the bad when it comes to Pride organisers working with local government. He says some councils can be really enthusiastic and supportive, but others less so. He highlighted the tremendous effort by the Greater London Authority who put a significant budget and administrative support to ensure the success of London Pride. Steve points out that the GLA supports other events, too – but he understands that for every pound of investment in an event, they expect a return of at least six pounds. They also estimate that Pride returns £53 to the London economy for every pound invested. Other big city Prides have conducted detailed economic impact analysis, for example see Toronto’s easy to read report for 2019 (pre-pandemic).

Steve started his role in Copenhagen during the pandemic, so there have been some ups and downs related to travel restrictions and social distancing. However, he’s been pleasantly surprised by the coordination efforts between Pride and the council. For example, Pride organisers in many places are responsible for outreach to businesses and residents who may be impacted by the event. In Copenhagen, the council has a dedicated email system for communication which has auto-resend for those who haven’t yet opened their emails ensuring that everyone knows what’s up.

Steve says there is a huge diversity in how councils handle Pride. Some councils are incredibly supportive, others across Europe can be less supportive to downright hostile. However, he points out “You cannot ban pride. It’s been established as part of the fundamental human rights agenda in Europe.” He says this has given some city officials a new perspective. He cited one council who had a clash of events and wanted to cancel Pride – when confronted on the human rights aspect they said “We didn’t think of it as a human rights event, we thought of it as a party.”

For councils that want to support Pride and don’t yet have long standing relationships with local Pride organisations, Steve says it’s important to remember that Pride organisers “are incredibly passionate, but many don’t have the experience of running events of this scale.” Some councils have helped local activists by putting them in touch with the UK Pride Organisers Network which has a toolkit and support for members.

Steve’s advice to organisers is to join their national or regional networks but also to get in touch with local government and the police early on. Big Pride events start planning a year and a half in advance. For a gathering of any significant size, there will always be licensing and safety issues and organisers need to work with their local public services to ensure a smooth delivery. For local governments, Steve says that Pride events can be a huge benefit in terms of visibility, equality and inclusion as well as having local economic benefits. Pride events can look different in many places, from a small gathering in smaller places to huge events like London and Copenhagen. But he advises “Don’t hoist the rainbow flag unless you’re going to put in some effort for Pride and for inclusion throughout the year.”

See our whole collection of “Civic Pride” showing the diversity of activism and celebration, including links to other LGIU resources. 



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