Pride London funding ‘shortfall’ sees WorldPride heavily scaled back

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The WorldPride event in London on 7 July has been severely cut back with floats banned from the route and start times moved after a funding “shortfall”, organisers Pride London confirmed today.

Organisers said they would be “returning to the roots of the original Pride London rallies” after cars and floats were cancelled with just over a week to go until the event.

Instead of the usual procession, the event has been scaled back to a walking parade taking the same route but beginning at 11am, not 1pm.

Pride London confirmed this afternoon: “There will be no official World Pride events in Soho. Licensing regulations will be that of any normal day, the Golden Square event will be cancelled and the Family Area in Soho will proceed independently.”

The details were released after an emergency meeting at City Hall today. Activities in Trafalgar Square are “expected to proceed, but with some changes to the programme, including an earlier start and finish time”.

Organisers said: “Each and every year, Pride London needs to achieve some serious commercial targets to fund the event – and this year, targets are even higher than before, because of increased cost, the sheer scale of the planned event and mounting pressure to deliver a “world class” event.

“To a backdrop of a more difficult economic climate and tough sponsorship calls considering everything that is happening in London this year, fundraising from both corporates and from within the community has been more challenging than ever. Despite creating a strong sponsorship base for this year’s planned event, there is, in the week leading up to the 7th of July, still a shortfall.”

James-J Walsh, who left his position as Associate Director of Pride London in 2009, said LGBT charities in particular would be “severely affected” by the last-minute changes to the day.

He told the last-minute scaling-back “could result in them not being able to undertake fundraising and other activities associated with Pride”.

“This will mar the work of Pride London for years to come. Pride London has lost the focus of being an LGBT campaigning organisation, instead focusing on partying rather then politics, which is what the community needs when legislation around equal marriage and LGBT rights are still to be won both in the UK and around the world.”

Yesterday, Pride London rebutted ‘misrepresented rumours’ that the 7 July event was in danger of cancellation and responded to ‘media criticism’ of the event’s organisation. It said contrary to speculation, it did not owe £65,000 from last year’s event, though a payment to a contractor was “disputed”, and was “extremely concerned as to the source of this information”.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell helped organise the first Pride event in London in 1972 and has attended every event since. He told this afternoon it was “absolutely outrageous” that the parade’s start time had been changed.

“Many people have booked coaches and trains to arrive at the original start time of 1pm, and it’s too late to ensure that everyone knows that the start time has changed. It is going to result in total chaos and gridlock throughout the West End. The police and the mayor are stark, raving mad to have agreed to this shambles.”

Mr Tatchell said the last-minute exclusion of floats and vehicles from the parade is “a massive blow to the many organisations who have spent thousands of pounds on hiring and decorating them”.

It is not yet known whether the cost of the floats, several thousand pounds each, will be refunded.

On Trafalgar Square, Mr Tatchell added: “Scaling back speakers and performers on the main stage at Trafalgar Square will cause huge disappointment. The fear is that some of the human rights speakers will be axed as a result, further depoliticising the event.”

“Whatever the rights and wrongs, this scaling down of WorldPride is a huge embarrassment for London and for our LGBT community. We promised LGBT people world-wide a fabulous, spectacular event. It now looks like WorldPride in London will go down in history as a damp squib.

“We’re not only letting down LGBT people in Britain, we’re also betraying the trust and confidence of LGBT people world-wide. This is an absolute disaster.”