A number of statements were issued today by Pride London regarding changes to this weekends WorldPride event. The first, below, confirms that the chairman of the event, Dr Patrick Williams, has resigned.

Pride London is today announcing that long-standing board member Tony Hughes has taken over as Interim Chair of the charity. The appointment follows the resignation of Dr Patrick Williams but will not affect this weekend’s World Pride celebrations.

Dr Williams resigned from his position following criticism of the Board’s handing of World Pride 2012. The rest of the Board remains unchanged and committed to delivering an event London can be Proud of. As previously confirmed this will be a scaled-down event from the original plans.

Below, in full, is a statement from the Uwern Jong, Director of Communications at Pride London regarding changes to the event.

In the interest of transparency and addressing the varying stories, Pride London are keen to provide some much needed detail to the changes made to the WorldPride 2012 event.

A SHORTFALL IN CASH
On the 27th June, the Evening Standard reported a debt outstanding from last year of £65,000 threatening cancelation of the WorldPride festivities. This is untrue. The only outstanding issue was a disputed invoice with a supplier of £18,000. This supplier continued to work with Pride London whilst the dispute was under investigation. This did not in any way threaten that the event would be cancelled.
Any event of this scale in Central London means an enormous cost base. From public safety, to licensing, to first aid, to stage management, there are many different elements of the event that needs to be paid for. For WorldPride this year, Pride London’s cost-base increased by 30% as compared to the previous year. We have always maintained that Pride London remains a FREE event for people to attend.
Over the two years since being awarded WorldPride, two different Boards of Directors (all of whom work voluntarily in their spare time) have driven fundraising hard to achieve the commercial requirements and targets to put on the event. 

This year, the problems arose, not because we have a lack of pledged funds, but because we were unable to collect enough funds from those pledged to provide the strict financial assurances to all parties involved.

ASSURANCES
All the agencies involved (the major ones being the GLA, Met Police, Westminster Council, London Fire Brigade, Transport for London) require concrete assurances that we have cash in the bank to pay suppliers and costs upfront for the event to go ahead. This is the first year that the agencies had insisted on these assurances. 

At an all-agency meeting on the 27 th June, we were told that because we didn’t meet the assurances required, we needed to work with a Plan B. Keen that our event was to go ahead come hell or high water, we worked with the agencies to reduce the cost implication for Pride London, whilst continuing to ensure that the event was safe for all those attending. This was the first time such a plan was discussed.

PLAN B
The ‘parade’ is to be changed to a ‘procession’.
Pride London has always run and paid for the parade/march to Whitehall. This is a significant cost to the charity. Because the assurances were not in place, we were asked to look at an option which didn’t take away from the basic structure of the event, but which was more cost-effective to manage.
The option was a ‘protest’ – under our democratic right to stage a ‘peaceful protest’. As we wanted to march, we opted for a ‘procession’ under the Public Order Act 1986. This event is under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police, who will maintain public order throughout. 

Unfortunately, such a procession means no vehicles, which have left us in the difficult position of having to cancel floats. We understood the implications and impact that it would have and considered this long and hard, but unanimously agreed that a procession of this kind was better than no parade at all. 

The Met Police had also insisted, for policing purposes and that of public order and safety, that the procession begins at an earlier time of 11am instead of the original 1pm start time.
For more information about the definition of a procession, you can visit: http://www.inbrief.co.uk/human-rights/peaceful-protest.htm
All parties that had booked floats in the parade have been contacted by a member of the Pride London team.

Trafalgar Square
Our event at Trafalgar Square will proceed, with the support of the Mayor of London. However it now will start 1pm and finish at 6pm. The changes in timing is to do with policing requirements and crowd control in managing a safe event.

Cancelation of Pride London events in Soho
To create a safe and incident-free event for revelers in Soho, Westminster Council will need to close key roads and uphold parking suspensions in the area. Because we couldn’t provide the assurances required to pay the council for these closures, the application did not progress. As a result we cannot guarantee a safe and secure event for the community in Soho and we’re forced to cancel all official Pride London events for this reason.

The partying will no doubt still carry on and bars and clubs extremely busy. However, normal licensing rules apply. We urge that revelers enjoying post-Pride in Soho keep their wits about them and stay safe. Whilst the streets of Soho will not officially be closed, the Metropolitan Police will ensure the safety of all in the area and close roads where appropriate.

CROWD SAFETY
Crowd safety is of utmost importance to us. We have been asked to issue a crowd-safety notice in conjunction with all-agencies, which you will have received this morning.

LICENSES
All applications for licenses were made to the appropriate and relevant authorities at the beginning of May, with ample time for processing. This includes every imaginable detail as required.

PLANNING
Pride London, year on year works conscientiously with all agencies to deliver the very best event. And this year was no exception. Pride London directors attend every monthly LOPSG (London Operations, Planning and Safety Group) meeting. We are committed to ensuring that we throw the very best event, resources allowing and making sure that it is one that is safe and enjoyable.

As far as Pride London is concerned, it is in our complete interest to amplify the event, in advancement of global LGBT rights. We have nothing to gain from scaling down the event. However, it is important that it such an event is financially viable.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF CHANGES
The announcement of the changes was made in an all-agency press-release on the 28th of June -one day after the meeting. The timing was unfortunate, but this was the earliest opportunity that we had to announce the changes.

RESCUE PACKAGE
In an effort to give the community the event we had planned, we worked with two potential sponsors, our headline sponsor Smirnoff and also QSoft (of Gaydar fame) to reach a rescue package that would allow us at the very least to restore the Parade to the original plan and consider some road closures in Soho.
We are fully aware that the elderly and less-able, important members of our community, could not make the procession without vehicles. We are also fully aware that our sponsors and community groups have created beautiful and meaningful floats, costing them money. We are also concerned about the safety of our community in Soho.
On 29th June 2012, with a rescue plan and potential sponsor support in hand, we made an attempt to petition the agencies to allow us to restore the event. 

Full attempts were made to restore the event, but we can now confirm that despite our efforts, we have been told that this is logistically impossible.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON…
With just days to go to the big day, we are still working hard to deliver a memorable event. We thank the members of the community who have continued to support us despite the changes. It is not an easy task considering the situation and all the added work we need to do, but we are trying our very best.

FINAL ALL-AGENCIES MEETING
Yesterday, Tuesday 03 July, Pride London attended its final all-agencies meeting. There was a rumour circulating that this was an ‘emergency meeting’ to discuss the rescue of Pride. For a matter of clarity, this meeting is scheduled with the intent for Pride London to present its final operational plans in line with the proposed changes and for all agencies to sign-off.

OUR SINCEREST APOLOGIES
Pride London deeply regrets the situation and we offer our sincerest apologies to the community, our sponsors and partners for the position we have found ourselves in. We understand the confusion and chaos that this must have caused for many people. We understand that the changes are last minute and people from all over the country and world will be affected by this in their plans to be part of the event. We share in your frustrations, but we hope that the community will understand the facts and the reasons why we have had to move to this position.

TODAY LONDON, TOMORROW THE WORLD
London and UK’s LGBT community has never been one to flounder in the face of adversity. Despite the changes in the past week, we urge all members of the community to come out in force and support WorldPride and do the very best they can. Forty years on from the very first Pride London march, we need to show that this fighting spirit from 1972 lives on. Not just for us, but for our brothers and sisters across the world who are still fighting for their rights to be human, their rights to love and the decriminalization of homosexuality in the place that they live.

About The Author

Caspar grew up in the north of Scotland, but has lived in London since 2002. He is usually to be found in Soho, holding a mojito.