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London Pride in Soho cancelled

Jessica Geen June 18, 2010
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Update: London Pride organisers are currently in new talks with Westminster council.

The Soho element of London Pride 2010 has been cancelled, organisers announced today.

As reported yesterday, roadworks around north Soho and Soho Square meant the Fire Brigade raised concerns that a large number of people in the area would not be safe.

Many of the surrounding roads are closed while Crossrail and Thames Water works take place.

Soho is considered the gay heart of London, with dozens of gay bars, pubs and shops. The decision means there will be no official Pride celebrations in Soho.

Gay businesses were told this week that there would be no stage in Soho Square and the only other option was to restrict just 7,000 people at a time to the area.

Bars were told a small street party could be held but they would have to compensate Pride London for its loss of sponsorship.

Pride is to take place on July 3rd and around 800,000 people are expected to join the celebrations.

Paul Birrell, chairman of Pride London, said today he was “deeply disappointed” at the news.

He said: “We have investigated every option with our colleagues at Westminster city council but the extended roadworks are an insurmountable problem. We planned to put significant extra security into the area and as recently as two weeks ago, that looked to have got the green light, but even this proved not to be enough.

“Restricting the crowd to just 7,000 people in an area that usually has the same capacity as Wembley Stadium would make for a very lonely party whilst alienating many local businesses.

“We do not feel it is fair to the businesses to stop their customers and even were we to attempt that, the cost of doing so is just astronomical and not something we can afford without some assistance.

“That we have only just had such a capacity put on the event makes it incredibly difficult for Pride London to mitigate this further.

“It has been a hard call but I believe we have taken the only decision we could. It would be fair to say I’m not a big fan of Crossrail at the moment.”

Soho was due to host the dance stage and Pride officials are working out the details of what will happen to acts, who may be squeezed on to the other stages in Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square.

Pride media director Colm Howard-Lloyd told this morning that the festival will be obliged to make clear on publicity that no Pride events will be held in Soho on the day.

Organisers are meeting with Westminster council this morning.

Yesterday, Michele Cremona, who represents KU Bars and is the co-chair of the Westminster LGBT Business Forum, said the issue had risen at “terribly short notice”.

She said many business owners were currently on holiday and were not able to make decisions about paying out money to compensate Pride.

Ms Cremona also suggested that with the day held on the semi-finals of the World Cup, the area could descend into chaos if fans and gay revellers were not allowed into one of the most popular drinking areas in the city.

She said: “There would be a real danger if that happened. It would be a risky step to take.”

A Westminster council spokeswoman said yesterday the council had “bent over backwards” to make Pride London aware of the security measures it needed to take.

She said: “We’ve said we welcome Pride, we’re happy for it to take place, but ultimately safety comes first. If something was to happen, we’d want to evacuate the area as soon as possible. We are acting on the fire service’s advice.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “London Fire Brigade plays an active role in Pride and our firefighters take part in the parade every year. We also take public safety very seriously.

“Pride is a popular annual event and attracts huge crowds, however this year due to Crossrail and other construction works in the Soho area, the Safety Advisory Group which includes LFB, Westminster City Council and Metropolitan police, have advised organisers that a large number of people in Soho Square will lead to emergency evacuation and access problems unless adequate controls are put in place.”

Related topics: London

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