The GLA has confirmed today the Mayor of London Boris Johnson will not attend the heavily scaled back WorldPride parade in the capital this Saturday, as sponsors confirm the event in its original form has become ‘unsalvageable’.
Mr Johnson’s office has contributed £100,000 to the stage event in Trafalgar Square this weekend, which will still go ahead, but the GLA confirmed to PinkNews.co.uk this morning that the mayor will not attend personally, contrary to the indication he made at Stonewall’s hustings ahead of his re-election this year.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who helped organise London’s first pride event in 1972 said: “It’s quite appalling that the Mayor of London is refusing to attend this year’s WorldPride. London is the host city, he’s the mayor, Boris should be at the front of the parade.
“From tip-offs that I’ve received from inside the GLA, it looks like the Mayor’s Office is seeking to dictate the terms of WorldPride and to reject all representations from LGBT community organisations.
“Boris’s non-attendance at this year’s WorldPride is symptomatic of a wider problem, an apparent unwillingness to consult and negotiate with London’s LGBT organisations and businesses to rescue WorldPride. Regardless of what Pride London has done, the mayor has an obligation to listen to the concerns of LGBT community organisations. He has failed to do so.”
WorldPride has been reduced to a walking parade, starting at 11am instead of 1pm this Saturday. With just over a week until the event, it was announced that floats and vehicles would not be allowed to take part in the procession.
As well as the earlier start time, the celebrations in Trafalgar Square will end at 6pm and no official Pride events will go ahead in the Soho area.
A last-minute attempt with financial support from Gaydar and Smirnoff, owned by Diageo, to save abandoned elements of the day was made but has proved unsuccessful.
Trevor Martin, CEO of Gaydar.co.uk, said today: “Having learned last week that the organisers of World Pride were encountering financial difficulties which would significantly impact this year’s proceedings, QSoft Consulting, parent company of Gaydar.co.uk, immediately made the decision to offer considerable financial support to help rescue the event.
“Following a number of conversations with the GLA, Pride London Board members both past and present, Westminster Council and local MP Jonathan Glanz we have sadly been informed that the licensing required to stage the event cannot be reinstated at this late stage and have been forced, therefore, to conclude that the World Pride event is beyond salvaging, regardless of cash investment. I sincerely hope this situation can be avoided in future and that London can enjoy the Pride event it deserves in 2013 and beyond.”
Pride London said today the GLA, Metropolitan Police, Westminster Council, London Fire Brigade and Transport for London among other agencies involved in the event had required for the first time “concrete assurances” it had money to pay the upfront costs associated with the event.
Pride London said the funding shortfall which led to the scaling-back had arisen “not because we have a lack of pledged funds, but because we were unable to collect enough funds from those pledged to provide the strict financial assurances”.
As such, a cheaper ‘Plan B’ was drawn up after a meeting at City Hall at the end of June.
The Public Order Act makes provision for a procession as a form of protest, under the control of the Metropolitan Police, and this was settled on as a cheaper alternative. Floats and vehicles cannot take part in a procession of this kind.
Organiser said the Metropolitan Police insisted that an 11am start time be put in place to protect public order and safety.
It is now “logistically impossible” to reintroduce floats or change the start time, despite the offer of financial support from Gaydar and Smirnoff, Pride London has confirmed.
It said today that it “deeply regretted the situation” and offered “sincerest apologies to the community, our sponsors and partners for the position we have found ourselves in”, adding that it hoped the community would “understand the facts and the reasons why we have had to move to this position”.
Pride London added that they hoped the community would still feel the spirit of the first Pride march in London in 1972, forty years on, “for our brothers and sisters across the world who are still fighting for their rights to be human, their rights to love and the decriminalization of homosexuality in the place that they live.”
Crowd safety notices have been issued by all agencies saying anyone attending the Pride procession should be at Portman Square at 10am in order to leave at 11am. If the event in Trafalgar Square reaches capacity, access will need to be restricted.
With no outdoor events, the crowd safety notice warns that bars in the Soho area “are expected to be extremely crowded, with limited capacity” and urges visitors to “follow the advice being given to ensure a safe and successful Pride”.