Restore Trust – Save Our Pride

A credible financial plan is vital to make good the tarnished image of the biggest party in Brighton

Pride has a date with destiny on Tuesday 6 March. Two rival groups want permission to host Brighton’s biggest party. They need to ask the council for permission. Councillor Geoffrey Bowden will weigh up their proposals and decide who can go to the ball. He will need to have confidence that the people behind Pride will make good on their word. In particular, he will need to be sure about the safety of the public.

Some have questioned whether we should hold this annual bash any more. Pride has played a crucial part in helping gay men and women win greater acceptance in Brighton and beyond over the past few decades. It does still have a purpose. Even somewhere as broadly tolerant as Brighton still suffers from gay bashing. There is still a need for Pride as something more than just the biggest, brightest and boldest party of the year.

Behind the brash exuberance, though, Pride’s board of trustees has found itself in a difficult financial position. It may seem odd after tens of thousands of people took part in the parade and the party in Preston Park last year. The park was fenced off and, for the first time, entry was by ticket.

The problems appear to revolve around budgeting for an event with entry charges. While it was impossible to forecast exact numbers, public safety dictated a need to cater for the maximum possible number. Capacity was about 50,000. The turnout was about 30,000. As a result there was a revenue shortfall. And the taxman appears to have contributed to the financial hangover. Fingers have been pointed at a ruling about VAT on ticket receipts wiping out a significant sum of money.

One of Pride’s creditors, Fisher Productions, is keen for the event to have a chance to trade its way back into the black. This approach has not garnered universal support. Trustees have resigned from the board. Others have stayed on to try to deal with the situation honourably.
A rival organiser has come up with its own proposal. It involves the owners of the Revenge club underwriting the event through a community interest company. And a promise that £1 from every ticket will be paid to the Rainbow Fund, a reputable umbrella charity that supports LGBT causes in the area.

One of Pride’s biggest critics, James Ledward, is lending his support. Mr Ledward, editor of Gscene magazine, said that the community interest company would be properly transparent and accountable. He said: “It was looking as though the event was a success but we’ve thrown a party we can’t afford to pay for. We must never have a situation again where people’s bills aren’t paid and money isn’t given to charity.”

Now Councillor Bowden, who was once a Pride trustee and has more insight than many into the back story, must make his decision. With the date of Pride set for Saturday 1 September, today is only the start of a long process. It will require others, including the emergency services, to be satisfied that public safety will be properly protected. And that requires money. Select Security is believed to be among the creditors after last year’s event.

Councillor Bowden, a member of the council’s cabinet, said that it would be inappropriate to comment before he makes his decision. But he did say: “Pride is an incredibly important event for the city. Although it’s a celebration, and we live in a tolerant community, homophobic attacks still occur and the work of lots of local charities needs to be supported.”

Pride generates a lot of spending and most people believe that it should give support to those charities. Councillor Bowden will need to have confidence that if he gives permission for Pride then the organisers will keep their word.

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