Mayor Boris Johnson diverts Soho Pride funds to fight homophobic bullying

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A £10,000 grant from City Hall to a central London Pride event has been withdrawn.

Soho Pride has been held in August for the last five years with funding from the Greater London Authority.

A smaller event than Pride London, it centres around gay bars in the West End’s ‘gay village.’

The streets are closed and various dance areas created. Commercial organisations such as Gaydar, Outlet and Ku Bar sponsor the event.

In a letter to organisers, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson:

“Money saved from this decision will not be cut from LGBT-related projects, but is being re-invested to help facilitate a pan London campaign against homophobic bullying in schools, a cause I am sure you will agree it is vitally important to support.

“Pride London includes a substantial presence in the Soho area just six weeks prior to your event [and] we feel that there is also an element of duplication between both events.”

Soho Pride organisers said in a statement on their website:

“The withdrawal of funding for the event could prove fatal and mean 2008 could be Soho Pride’s last year on the streets of London.”

This year it will be held on August 17th.

“Soho is very much a village within a city, with the community spirit easy to spot as everyone clubs together to create such a great day out,” according to the Soho Pride website.

“Whether you’re watching the cabaret, dancing to your favourite tunes, relaxing in the Square or just indulging in a spot of drinking with your friends, you’re guaranteed a great day out.”

The Mayor’s office told that a review of all events is underway but the Greater London Authority will continue to support the annual Pride London celebrations, “which have a very significant focus in Soho, thus also having an impact on local businesses, including gay-owned ones.

“In this case the priority has to be trying to tackle the terrible, potentially tragic, consequences of homophobic bullying, over a commercially-led matter.

“What we will continue to do is ensure that the Pride celebrations can thrive and that London remains at the forefront of gay issues.”

Pride London 2008 saw a record 825,000 people take part. Mayor Boris Johnson led the parade this year, and pledged continued financial support for the event.

Soho Pride’s organisers have appealed the decision to withdraw funding and have written to the Mayor’s office “highlighting how important the Mayor’s funding is.”

Gay equality organisation Stonewall produced a report on homophobic bullying in schools last year.

It contained numerous testimonies from children in London who are bullied, victimised and assualted because of their sexual orientation.

Among its key findings:

65 per cent of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools.

97 per cent of gay pupils hear derogatory phrases such as “dyke” or “poof” used in school.

98 per cent of gay pupils hear “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” at school.

75 per cent of young gay people in faith schools experience homophobic bullying and are less likely than pupils in other schools to report it.

30 per cent of lesbian and gay pupils report that adults are responsible for homophobic incidents in their schools.

Of those who have been bullied, 92 per cent have experienced verbal homophobic bullying, 41 per cent physical bullying and 17 per cent death threats.

Read the full report here.