First Published: May 2004
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
Last gasp stab or third time lucky? After the last two wash-outs in Hackney and Hyde Park, OutUK's Adrian Gillan asks all the questions you want to ask organiser, and glutton for Pride punishment, Jason Pollock (right) about this year's event and whether London can regain its reputation on 3rd July 2004.

OutUK: Firstly, it's Pride London? Why not London Pride?
Jason: London Pride is a beer.

OutUK: Seriously though, are you still the only person 'up' for organising a Pride in London this year Jason?
Jason: No one else is mad enough to try, that's the honest truth. I should know - I've done it since 1999. People assume I'm going to do it. I think I even assume I'm going to do it.

OutUK: Still bushy-tailed after Hackney (2002) and Hyde Park (2003)?
Jason: Neither of those events were failures. You just get the vociferous minorities who fill the gay pages with moaning and winging - because that makes for better headlines than the silent majority who had a good time. What you don't see are the bags of letters I get saying, "Thanks very much, what a great day!"

The 2003 Parade outside Big Ben.
Photograph by Fred Pieau.
OutUK: But didn't some people almost literally disappear in the Hackney mud?
Jason: It wasn't a failure. The main moan was the walk from the station. This was changed on the morning by Hackney Police who'd had homophobic threats, thereby sending everyone on a twenty five minute detour around the houses and fields - there and back. And unfortunately things were made worse by torrential rain the night before. If detour and rain hadn't happened, you wouldn't have heard the moans.

OutUK: And weren't loads of businesses left owed money?
Jason: There were quite a few left out of pocket. However, the organising company didn't go into liquidation, but instead creditors got some of their money and were promised some more - had we made a profit last year. Unfortunately we didn't.
OutUK: Quite, so what went wrong with Hyde Park then?
Jason: The company who were selling the tickets - which the Royal Parks required us to use - went bust three weeks before the event and took our money down with them. We owed about a quarter of a million pounds, mainly to the Royal Parks. So even though all our other suppliers were paid, that meant that Mardi Gras - the company that had been running the event for five years - went into liquidation.
OutUK: Wasn't it all a bit over-hyped though, all that talk about a "Sydney style" event?
Jason: The bit that will make any Pride in London into a "Sydney" will be the Parade, not the post-Parade event. Now that, for the first time this year, we're working under traffic management rules, we have the potential to expand things with floats. Unfortunately these regulations hike costs from 20k to 70k.

OutUK: So how are you going to raise your extra 50k to cover the spectacular Parade?
Jason: There are various ways - perhaps from kick-backs from door takings at events organised later that day, although Pride London won't be organising any ourselves. We're also offering sponsorship packages for Parade floats and banners.
OutUK: And from the GLA (Greater London Authority)?
Jason: I haven't actually asked them - there's always a question of how much control you'd need to give up in return for such funding. However, Mayor Ken Livingstone will lead the Parade and speak at the Rally.
OutUK: So there will be a better Parade. But what then?
Jason: There will then be a free Rally in Trafalgar Square with speakers, community stalls, a blessings tent and some LGB pop acts, giving their services for free this year. We paid 150k on performers last year! Because everyone thought we were all making a fortune, they all charged a fortune! Now, Pride is free and everyone involved in organising it is a volunteer.

OutUK: And what then?
Jason: As I say, we're not ourselves going to be running any big Pride London "green park" event this year - no one will give us a park for free. But after the Rally you may want to go to the spectacular 'Big Gay Out' in Finsbury Park, one of several 'official Pride parties' taking place later that day; or you may like to visit one of the many pubs and clubs in London staying open all hours for Pride day.

OutUK: Is this year's in any sense a back-to-basics humbling?
Jason: True, we've certainly reduced our overheads this year because we're not hiring any equipment or organising any spectacular event. Pride London is now just the Parade and the Trafalgar Square Rally. But we're not exactly going back to basics.
OutUK: Are things more political though?
Jason: I maintain that Pride is, regardless of its social and cultural aspects, essentially a political event and always will be until we gain total equality. And, as well as those that are actively engaged in fighting for this equality, I get equally moved just by seeing kids - sixteen year olds and younger now - coming down to London and holding hands and kissing on the street, like the rest of the world do but probably for the very first time. It's the one day in the year that we've got for us - when we feel completely free to do that.

OutUK: How much money have you and do you personally make out of Pride, Jason?
Jason: Everyone assumed the old Mardi Gras organisers were some bunch of rich queens, coining it off. We weren't and we didn't. And people didn't know that. I would love people to stop thinking we had some kind of hidden agenda. I got paid a wage for organising Mardi Gras which was, after all, a commercial, for-profit - ha, ha - event. But even then, I never got a penny for helping to organise the Pride Parade. And I don't have any wage or Pride income this year, from either the Parade or our Rally. I earn a living from my other business activities - gay marketing consultancy for gay and mainstream clients. So - read my lips - I'm purely a volunteer this year, supported by a whole team of other volunteers.
OutUK: Aren't you jaded after the flack some gay media have thrown your way in recent years?
Jason: When I get personally attacked for creaming off money! What money? I get angry and upset when I hear stupid comments or see silly banners from people like the National Union of Students, saying things like "Pride not Profit". We never made any money out of this. In the early years when we were a for-profit organisation, the Board may have thought they would, but it soon became clear that they wouldn't.
OutUK: If there is a 'profit' at the end of the day this year, what happens to it? Does any go to charity?
Jason: This time round Pride London is a not-for-profit organisation - we may even decide to apply for charitable status. Any 'excess' money raised, over and above covering costs for the Parade, is the gay community's money. And it's up to the Board how the community will benefit - perhaps subsidising charities who need support in order to participate, or holding the money over for next year. Bona fide charities are also being given free stall space at the Trafalgar Square Rally and can use the Parade to raise awareness and money.

OutUK: Will there be a souvenir guide-cum-brochure?
Jason: There will be a publication - out about 2-3 weeks before the event, going to all bars within the M25.



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