Should Pride be a party or a protest?
Just weeks before the London Pride march, organisers of Sheffield Pride have come under fire after describing their event as a “march of celebration, not protest”.
In an email to participants, then widely circulated across social media, organisers said that banners and placards would have to be viewed by the Parade Manager prior to the event, and ‘offensive’ signs would not be allowed on the march.
It’s the vague sentiment of ‘offensive’ followed by a note that the event is “a march of celebration not protest” that has angered many, who believe the event should continue from its inherently political roots.
Openly celebrating your queerhood is inherently political. Pride is a protest and Sheffield needs to do better.
— Shibby (@PakisRights) May 9, 2018
Luke Renwick, the president of Sheffield Hallam Student Union, noted on social media the organisers had also banned political groups from joining the march – although this has now been removed from their website.
It gets worse in other areas of Sheffield Pride too.
“PRIDE SHEFFIELD, will not be accepting any applications by Political Groups for this years event.”https://t.co/b8NyH4Y8df
— Luke Renwick (@LukeRenwick_) May 9, 2018
Organisers initially defended their policy, with event manager Darren Hopkinson telling BBC Sheffield: “We understand there is a protest element but the main priority for our event is to celebrate”.
Later, they released a statement saying that “we got it wrong”, and they were acting on “criticism we received after last years’ parade and event”.
But ahead of a summer of Pride events it has rekindled a debate about whether Pride has lost its purpose.
Pride in London, the organisers of the event in the capital, have repeatedly fended off criticism of associations with big corporations. They argue that it’s a necessary measure to fund the event that has to pay increasing costs to the council and police.
Last year, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote for The Guardian that “Pride has been dumbed down. For many people, it is now mostly a gigantic street party. Big corporations see it as a PR opportunity to fete LGBT consumers. The ideals of LGBT equality are barely visible.”
This attitude has led to a string of fringe events growing, most notably UK Black Pride, where politics and social change remains at the forefront. In February, Stonewall announced they’d be pulling out of London’s biggest event to instead divert their resources to UK Black Pride instead.
When a relatively conservative org like Stonewall pull out of London Pride well you know there is a problem. Pride being taken over by Corporate types will do that.
— Suzy Byrne (@suzybie) February 24, 2018
London Pride is a corporate mess run by people who need to get a fucking grip of their privilege. Pleased to see Stonewall call it out and I’m having nothing to do with it either
— Alan Scobbie (@AlanScobbie) February 23, 2018
Despite the criticism, more than 25,000 people will attend London’s Pride march on July 7, and it remains the biggest event of its kind.
But questions remain about whether the LGBT+ community expect better from London – be it the Mayor’s office, Westminster Council or Pride in London – when hate crime has increased by 78% in the last five years (via Stonewall).