Controversial Virtual Pride cancelled as director accused of ‘political bigotry’ after showing support for Nigel Farage
A British Virtual Pride has been cancelled after its festival director was found to have connections to far-right Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
The coronavirus pandemic has vastly hollowed out once star-studded Pride calendars, leading to many LGBT+ community leaders – showing resilience and ingenuity – organising digital alternatives.
Organisers spearheaded Virtual Pride as a 10 hourslong online telethon, netting support from high-profile artists and performers.
But the digital festival was pockmarked after it emerged a Virtual Pride director had liked some Brexit-related tweets by Farage and also supported controversial commentator Toby Young.
Virtual Pride organisers issued a statement Thursday morning (May 14) announcing the event – scheduled for May 23 – would be pulled.
— Virtual Pride 2020 (@VirtualPride20) May 13, 2020
A steady volley of media partners and sponsors began to withdraw as a result of this adjacent-support, with tensions ratcheted up by the director’s refusal to apologise for his political views.
Dozens of Virtual Pride performers drop out due to Nigel Farage affiliation.
“Following a very difficult 48 hours it is with a heavy heart, after careful consideration that we must cancel Virtual Pride,” the winding statement read.
Organisers stated that the reason to cancel the broadcast was due to a two-pronged political row.
They explained that someone had emailed them over the “transparency regarding charity number”. Their website had been including a charity number for another organisation, the statement said, which members of the Virtual Pride teamwork for.
Organisers stressed that Virtual Pride was not a charity and that they hoped to raise funding via JustGiving.
But backlash began to simmer after the emailer, organisers said, “searched through our team’s personal social media accounts and found that our festival director liked a few tweets about Brexit written by a politician who in the past has spoken against the LGBT+ community.
“The person then sent this discovery to our sponsors and media partners.”
DIVA Magazine withdrew support on Tuesday (May 12). Publisher Lind Riley then claimed she was accused of being a “political bigot” in a tweet for doing so, rumbling across Twitter as likes and retweets for her tallied up.
Apparently I’m a ‘political bigot’ because @DIVAmagazine has withdrawn any support of #VirtualPride as one of the organisers supports @Nigel_Farage & @toadmeister For clarity any #LGBTQ event which supports the likes of these, will not have my support #proudtobeapoliticalbigot ?
— Linda Riley (@LindaRiley8) May 12, 2020
“For clarity,” she added, “any LGBTQ+ event which supports the likes of these, will not have my support.”
Announcements of performers, sponsors and media partners stepping down cascaded across the following two days.
Divina will not be taking part in @VirtualPride20
— Divina De Campo (@Divinadecampo) May 13, 2020
I have made the decision to no longer be taking part in #VirtualPride. Political opinions matter when it comes to ensuring people feel respected, heard and can express themselves freely ?️? https://t.co/S8QP0tIPZ4
— MISS DISNEY (@missdisneydrag) May 13, 2020
My Genderation has officially withdrawn from #VirtualPride. It does not sit right with us to partake in an event where organisers engage with and support political figures that fundamentally do not support the rights of vulnerable groups in society. Solidarity now, and always.?️⚧️ https://t.co/k17mF26N6a
— My Genderation (@mygenderation) May 13, 2020
I have decided to no longer take part in #VirtualPride 2020. This is for reasons I choose not to discuss online, however I wish all the performers the best. I still have some amazing things coming up so stay tuned! ? pic.twitter.com/1uUAvOudlF
— Yvy DeLuca (@yvyworld) May 12, 2020
Peter has confirmed to me that he is not any longer taking part in Virtual Pride. https://t.co/82uCuyyFQk
— C Jackson (@mynameisjust_c) May 13, 2020
ANNOUNCEMENT: I have taken the personal decision to step down as host from #VirtualPride (pls watch) @DIVAmagazine @LindaRiley8 @HazellHD @Divinadecampo @WSMPRIDE @tmatalentuk #LGBT pic.twitter.com/XITEsYB3sw
— Grant Bickell (@GrantBickellTV) May 13, 2020
— Hazell Dean ? (@HazellHD) May 12, 2020
‘It is hard to fathom how liking political tweets on a personal account can outweigh someone’s undeniable passion for this community.’
“Our festival director is not and will never be apologetic for his political persuasion or for supporting Brexit,” Virtual Pride’s statement said.
“He remains incredibly passionate about the LGBT+ community and views these as two separate things.
“Over the past 24 hours he has been labelled by people who should certainly know better and had his name dragged through the mud on social media in order to tarnish this event.”
Organisers skewered the “smear campaign” against them, and decried detractors by calling attention to how “LGBT+ performers who have already lost stages and platforms this year have lost yet another festival.”
They added: “It is hard to fathom how liking political tweets on a personal account can outweigh someone’s undeniable passion for this community.”
Disclosure: PinkNews is running a digital pride festival Pride for All in June.