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Row over Pride London’s ‘corporatisation’ erupts

Oxford University Student Union’s LGBTQ campaign has released an open letter to the organisers of last Saturday’s Pride Parade in which they “publically register [their] disgust at the corporatisation of the Pride in London”.

The open letter deals with several aspects of Pride in London’s conduct which the OUSU LGBTQ campaign regard as unacceptable. Their criticism centres on the inclusion of multinational corporations and financial institutions at the event.

These companies, it is claimed, “contribute to oppression to push liberation groups out of the picture”. The letter argues that “Pride should not be an advertising platform for multinational companies” or become about “selling out queer people”.

The campaign denounced the inclusion of Barclays at the event which it claimed is: “an organisation which had a dedicated tax avoidance branch and contributes to mass homelessness in the UK”. Barclays was 200 places in front of the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), a group that they state, provides “help and support to LGBTQ youth who are homeless”.

It further calls the decision to put Rainbows Across Borders next to BP Oil and Gas at the march “a disgrace”. The letter states that Rainbows Across Borders should not have been forced to share a platform with organisations like BP which “create the problems [Rainbows Across Borders] are trying to alleviate”.  

The letter concluded that Pride should be about “supporting and empowering those who are the most vulnerable” and “raising up trade unions and grassroots organisations”.

This year around 40,000 people took part in the London Pride parade, marching with charities, community groups, businesses and Trade Unions. This makes Pride London, according to the organisers, the biggest one-day event in the Capital.

Deputy chair of Pride in London, Stephen Ward, told Cherwell, “This [Pride] is a fantastic demonstration of the progress we have made and a perfect platform to continue to campaign for greater rights for the most disadvantaged and to ensure that we turn legal rights into genuine freedom for all of us”.

In response to the “corporatisation” of the parade, Ward stated that “keeping nearly 1 million people safe costs some £700,000 each year. £100,000 of that is supplied by the Mayor of London and the remainder must be raised in other ways. In the past it has proved very difficult to raise money from the community and so sponsorship is a good route. That sponsorship pays for the parade, the infrastructure in Trafalgar Square and the Women’s and Cabaret Stages in Soho and the Family Area in Golden Square as well as promotion of Pride in London and our festival of arts events and debates”.

Ward also commented, “The campaigners rightly point out that there are other events taking place in London this year for the community that do not require such significant funding, and I think it’s important to see Pride in London as part of that overall mix of diversity of events and campaigning approaches, just as Stonewall and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Act Up and LGSM bring different approaches”.

Besides the issue of “corporatisation”, the open letter called the presence of the Metropolitan Police “unacceptable” due to the “deep-rooted and endemic racism, homophobia and transphobia of the police [that] propagate the active oppression of LGBTQ people.” The LGBTQ campaign stated that they feel “the presence of the police in the march actively stops Pride being a safe space for many people”.

In response, Stephen Ward commented “I cannot accept that there is any basis for the Metropolitan Police not being able to participate in the Parade. The Met is committed corporately to diversity and inclusion as an employer and in policing and are a hugely valued delivery partner for Pride in London events.

“As the campaign may be aware, there has been debate this year around the participation of UKIP and this has prompted us to ask the Community Advisory Board to help us develop clear criteria for participation in Pride in London. We expect that this will include wide consultation of all parts of the community that we serve.”

Ward concluded, “Like every other organisation, Pride in London is on a journey.  As we grow and become stronger we can make a bigger impact on attitudes towards LGBT+ people. For the journey to continue, we need to plan our growth carefully and work with the community as one small part of the incredible network of campaigning and support organisations that have brought us so far in the last 40 or so years and who will continue the work of liberation that the brave patrons of the Stonewall Inn began in 1969.”

OUSU’s LGBTQ campaign open letter can be found here.

Stephen Ward’s full comment can be found here.

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