Pride Or Profit?

I HAVE been taking part in PRIDE for around 15 years. I am increasingly saddened to see the event become more and more depoliticised and profit-driven. This started with the separating off of the march from the festival, but continued to go full steam ahead when ticket charges where introduced.

Ruth Williams, Hackney SP Branch and SP LGBT Group

To ensure the event’s financial viability and success, the organisers claimed the heavy commercialisation of PRIDE was necessary. But this has led to greater and greater losses by the organisers, and companies going bankrupt.

The naked commercialisation of the event is exemplified by the exorbitant ticket prices, the confiscation of any food and drink as you enter the festival, and the high prices charged to stall holders (resulting in the exclusion of many non-profit organisations).

All this has helped gradually attack the loyalty and community spirit that built up over the years for PRIDE and exclude many working-class lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

In 1997, the last free PRIDE festival in London, I remember my flat being full of friends who’d travelled to London especially. None of these friends are coming down this year.

Many LGBT people living outside London are being excluded, as they can’t afford the extra burden of £25 for a ticket, on top of the fortune they’d have to pay in travel costs.

The organisers are expecting 35,000 this year. Compare this with the 100,000 who attended the march in 1997 and the 300,000 who went to the festival.

In fact it’s not just people from out of London who can’t afford to go to the PRIDE festival.

I don’t know anyone in London who can afford to buy a ticket! One friend explained to me, “I don’t need to pay £25 to prove I’m proud to be a lesbian!”

Ironically this year the march’s theme is “Our History, Our Future!” Pride began as a demonstration in London in 1972, as a political statement of resistance and a campaign for gay rights.

But it has become a major advertising opportunity for powerful multi-nationals such as Ford, Virgin, BT and Delta Airlines.

But despite this, many LGBT people realise the real importance of PRIDE and have been staying with it, and marching with their trade union and community banners, to help save PRIDE’s political tradition, regardless of attempts by the organisers to turn it into a dumbed-down big-business spectacle.

The struggles waged by the LGBT community have achieved significant steps towards legal equality. Despite this, however, homophobic prejudice still persists.

And any rights we gain are constantly under threat.

That’s why we believe in continuing to campaign against prejudice and discrimination through militant struggle and a socialist alternative. And it’s vital that PRIDE maintains its place as an annual demonstration for equality and focus for campaigning throughout the year for the LGBT community.