The first of two community hui’s put on by the Auckland Pride Board took place on Saturday at Studio One on Ponsonby Road.
An eclectic turn out of rainbow individuals attended the meeting which hoped to gauge response to this year’s Pride Festival and garner suggestions for the upcoming 2017 Auckland Pride Festival.
Five of the seven board members were present including co-chair Kirsten Sibbit, acting co-chair Richard James, Julie Swift, and new board members Zakk d’Larté and James Bennett.
Proceedings began with an introduction from each of the members, outlining their particular skills and what they hope to bring to the upcoming celebrations. A short speech by Sibbit outlined the previous Pride Festival and called for opinions, praise, and criticism of the festival.
Issues raised by the group included frequent timetable clashes for similar events, a lack of transgender and youth based events, accessibility to events, and a concentration on the party aspect of the Festival. It was also raised that some sections of our community feel excluded from Pride.
There was a general consensus from the group and the board that more work and time needs to be dedicated to making sure people can get the maximum from the festival. This included working on scheduling issues which saw many events with a similar demographic being presented on the same night. Anne Speir rightfully addressed a lack of lesbian-centric events and criticised the timetabling to which the board promised more effort and thought will be dedicated.
The breadth of events was another issue raised, with Bruce Brown of The Legacy Project voicing concerns about the accessibility for youth to participate in the festival. He suggested that many youth groups were not aware of the open invitation to produce works for the festival, and that funding roadblocks often stand in the way of having more youth produced and focused events during the festival. New board member Zakk d’Larté reassured the group that mechanisms are being explored to ensure that more youth based projects will be able to participate in the next festival.
More events in outlying suburbs like the North Shore, West Auckland, and East Auckland were suggested.
Increasing the number of transgender based events is another aspect of the festival which the board are examining. Sibbit told the group that Pride will be playing a more integral role in supporting these possible events in the upcoming festival, and accepted suggestions from the group of ways to facilitate this.
The party aspect of Pride was a contentious topic with opinions halved in the room. Some individuals thought that there was too much emphasis on parting and booze culture, while other individuals thought it was a fitting tribute to an aspect of queer life that existed as a same space for many people before the Homosexual Law Reform. This issue was not resolved but the Pride Board are considering all view points.
The final point concerning the festival was the fact that some groups within the rainbow community feel excluded from Pride. A lack of events concentrated on or facilitated by Asian and Māori groups was raised. A representative from No Pride in Prisons voiced concern about Pride’s representation of gay males above other factions of the queer community. Other members criticised the Pride Board’s “secret society” type management. This was meet with a happy announcement that the Pride Board will move to being a democratically voted in group with the establishment of a member system. This will return power to the hands of the people that Pride is for. Many participants in the hui told express that this was the greatest thing to come out of the day.
The Parade was the next item on the agenda, with issues being raised concerning the time of the parade and the possibility of intervention by No Pride in Prisons. Neither of these issues were able to be addressed in full during the meeting, but Sibbit reassured the group that measures are taking place to gauge what is best with the timing of the Parade. Some members of the hui said that having an earlier parade encouraged more families to attend, while others argued that having a daylight parade diminished the pizzazz notorious to other festivals such as the late Hero Parades and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. It remains unclear whether the parade will begin at 6 or 8pm next year.
No Pride in Prisons was a hot topic during proceedings with many questions from the floor concerning Pride’s involvement with Corrections. Many attendees voiced criticism about allowing Corrections and Police to march in uniform led by Judith Collins. According to some members of the group, allowing Collins to march with Police was “politicising our celebration.” To many queer people, Corrections and Police uniforms represent an oppressive system which has discriminated against them in the past. This is something that the Pride Board will have to consider as decisions have to be made in due course.
Sibbit seemed to be as open as possible about the board’s involvement, and told the group that they are in contact with Corrections and are aware of changing currently in play within the Corrections system. Sibbit told express that it is too early to say whether or not Corrections and the Police will be able to march in the parade in uniform.
The conversation ended pleasantly with attendees taking a moment to voice their favourite moments from the 2016 Auckland Pride Festival. The enormous amount of theatre performances was a highlight for many in the room, as well as being impressed with many of the parade floats, and a particular emphasis was put on Craig Watson’s Proud 2 Play sports festival. Mika Haka spoke for everyone when he said that what he was most grateful for was the fact that we have a Pride Parade. It’s existence is a way of showcasing queer talent, highlighting queer issues, and celebrating our queer selves is worth more than our differences.
The 2017 Pride Board wish to provide the most inclusive, accessible, interesting and informative Festival they can. They encouraged all comments and are willing to take criticism to ensure that the 2017 Auckland Pride Festival is the best it can be.
A second hui will take place on Wednesday 6 June at 6pm at Studio One Toi Tū Ponsonby. express encourages all members of our community to go along and voice your criticism and praise for the festival, because all of our voices and opinions are valid.