Tommy McIlravey, Chair of Liverpool Pride answers your questions
This interview took place with Seen Magazine
Can you give us a background to Liverpool Pride?
Before 2010, Liverpool was the largest city in the country that hasn’t had its own official pride festival. The city, and the region have had a number of high profile homophobic and transphobic attacks in recent years. At the launch of the LGB&T Network in 2008 the public voted for a pride festival to engage, empower and involve the LGB&T communities within the city and this was fully endorsed by Liverpool City Council in January 2009. Liverpool Pride 2010 was the first official Liverpool Pride festival by and for the Liverpool lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) communities.
Liverpool Pride is a registered charity, made up of a set of 8 volunteer trustees from the LGBT community.
The organisation is funded through contributions made from our delivery partners as well through advertising and sponsorship. We also receive a significant amount of ‘in-kind’ support from organisations and volunteers. Liverpool Pride does not make a profit; all funds raised go to the delivery of the festival. Any surplus we make will be put towards the development of the next festival. We are also looking at how we can help support charities that share our values.
Liverpool Pride exists for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was created to engage, involve and empower members of the LGB&T communities in Liverpool. It also began with the aim of fostering greater knowledge, understanding and acceptance of LGB&T communities by the wider population of Liverpool with a view to promoting better relations between communities
In order to achieve these aims Liverpool Pride will always seek to uphold its 4 core values:
To be inclusive – so that people of different ages, disability/health statuses, ethnic origins, faiths/beliefs, gender identities and sexual orientations are valued, included and able to access events.
To be visible – so that the profile of LGBT people and the contributions that they make socially, economically and culturally are acknowledged and celebrated publically.
To be free – in order that there be no financial barrier to participation.
To have a strong Liverpool/Merseyside identity – in order to celebrate all that is best in the city region and honour the particular contribution LGBT people make to the identity of Merseyside.
Who came up with the core values?
The aims and core value were written before Liverpool Pride was formally constituted and are the basis of the organisation. They are based on research with the LGBT communities in Liverpool. We asked people through the LGBT Network, through events such as IDAHO and by going out into community groups, bars on the scene and so on. In all around a 1000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in Merseyside contributed in some way to the aims and values statement.
Why is Pride moving to the Pier Head?
The cost of closing Dale St on a Saturday, and providing the necessary policing, security and traffic management is massive. Last year the festival cost us £135,000 to put on. Due to reductions in our funding, which is happening across the board, especially with the arts and culture, our income for this year’s festival is likely to be significantly lower which means we can’t put on the same show as we did last year. We have made significant increases in income from other sources (charitable and commercial) but as time moved on it became clear that we were not going to get anywhere near the figure needed to do Dale Street again. It is a particularly difficult market in which to get big commercial sponsorship too, as many of the cities festival organisers have learned this year.
We were left with a few options, which included cancelling Liverpool Pride 2011 or moving Pride outside of Liverpool City Centre. When we realised we could use the Pier Head, we knew it was the best option left as it is near the gay quarter in Liverpool but also is the most famous part of the city and will attract massive publicity and possibly more sponsorship. These elements could potentially help Liverpool Pride to have a larger budget next year.
You are always asking us our opinions on stuff, why didn’t you consult with us on the move?
The Pride Trustees continually assess financing for the festival. We were on course to deliver the festival on Dale St until the middle of June, when there was a large change in our predicted commercial income due to high competition for national private sector sponsorship, which we had managed to secure for last year. At that point we realised that there was no way we could deliver a safe and enjoyable festival on Dale St without an extra £40k Investment. Following this admission it was almost too late to make the necessary arrangements for licensing, safety, road closures, policing and so on. Our choices were to find a new venue within 2-3 days or to call off Liverpool Pride 2011. As much as we’d have liked to, we simply didn’t have time to put this out to consultation.
Getting a festival on the scale of Pride to happen involves getting approval from many other bodies, including the City Council, the Highways dept, Licensing dept, City Centre Management Team, Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, Northwest Ambulance Service and Merseytravel. We have to say a massive thank you to all those bodies for making senior representatives available at short notice so that we could get the Pier Head plans approved.
Why don’t we charge everyone an entry fee and make up the shortfall that way?
Firstly that would go against a couple of our core values which include commitments to deliver a free festival and to be as inclusive as possible. Liverpool Pride is about breaking down barriers, once you start charging people you have to start building physical barriers and excluding people
Secondly, even if we did want to charge (which we don’t) the cost of putting up barriers, paying extra security staff, printing tickets/wristbands and administering sales would approximately double our overall costs. Tickets would be £10 just to recover costs and there would be a massive risk that we didn’t sell enough, as has happened with other Prides who have started charging recently.
Didn’t you make loads of money last year?
Liverpool Pride’s total income was around £130,000 and our total expenditure was £135,000. That means we had to raise an extra £5,000 before we could even settle our debts from last year and begin planning this year.
Why is Liverpool Pride not in the Liverpool Gay Quarter when every other Pride is?
The thought that every other city or town’s Pride is held in its gay area is completely unfounded. Many of the biggest profile Pride festivals including London (Trafalgar Square) Sheffield (Endcliffe Park) and Brighton (Preston Park) are regularly outside of the areas where the gay bars are, though many have fringe events in their gay quarters, as we plan to.
What is Liverpool Pride doing to support the bars in the Gay Quarter, following the move away from the scene?
As a registered charity Liverpool Pride can’t have commercial aims, rather it exists to promote equality for LGBT people and to reduce hatred and discrimination. However within the legal constraints we do a lot to support and promote gay business.
Until we organised the festival on Dale St last year, there wasn’t Pride event in Liverpool since the mid 1990s and certainly nothing approaching the scale of what we achieved. We have had a really positive response from gay businesses that we are delivering a Pride festival again this year. Last year’s event was extremely good for business and so will this year’s be too.
Obviously the businesses are disappointed we won’t be as close but we are less than 10 minutes away from even the furthest gay bar, so they realise the site will work well for them. Don’t forget that we are going to bring an extra 20-30,000 extra people into the city centre. That’s enough to fill every gay bar and club in Liverpool about five times over.
Liverpool Pride and the city have made clear that their support would be needed to fund the event. This goes right back to our first meetings with gay businesses about 16 months ago. We were delighted that seven gay and gay friendly businesses came forward to support Liverpool Pride this year none of whom have asked to cancel their arrangements, those businesses are:
- The Lisbon
- Superstar Boudoir
- Splash Sauna Spa
- Homomodo at Modo
All of the gay businesses in the area were invited to partner with the event and were given details on how to get in contact with us and we would still welcome their support.
How can the council justify asking Pride to move?
The council didn’t ask Pride to move. The unfortunate truth is that due to the current economy and the Government’s spending cuts, Liverpool Pride weren’t able to obtain enough funding or sponsorship this year to be able to run a safe and enjoyable festival on Dale St so we chose the best option that was available to us. It is worth noting that the majority of funding for Chinese New Year comes from the Chinese community in Liverpool. Last year less than 5% of the funding from Liverpool Pride came from the LGBT community. We’ve done a lot of work trying to get businesses and community members to support the festival and this year that percentage will hopefully increase into double figures but we will still be relying on other funders and sponsors for the vast majority of the money. The Citysafe team at Liverpool City Council remain our biggest funder.
Liverpool Pride has campaigned tirelessly to deliver a festival in the gay quarter. It was Liverpool Pride, its directors, volunteers and supporters who delivered the Pride festival in Dale St last year and if we had the money available we would be back there this year. It is not a decision taken lightly.
But doesn’t the council still make sure all the other events like Matthew Street take place?
Actually many festivals and long standing cultural events have lost funding altogether from the council. The Lord Mayor’s Parade for instance has been cancelled after many successful years in the city. Matthew Street Festival was in jeopardy this until Cains Brewery stepped in as a major sponsor to make up the shortfall in council funding.
Are you worried that some of the negative feedback will have a damaging effect on the festival?
Not at all, we welcome everyone’s comments and understand that people are disappointed, we are too. The simple fact is we are doing our best to put on a fantastic event for LGBT people, their friends and supporters. There are always going to be differences of opinion about stuff and it is good that there is healthy debate. We take note of all the feedback we get and try to build our values around that democratically. We don’t mind people disagreeing with us and so you will see plenty of critical posts about us on our own website/facebook group. We only delete stuff that is offensive, misleading or illegal.
As mentioned above many gay businesses are supporting us and some of them are doing their own fringe events. We are helping to promote all the fringe events we know about though our brochure and website. Lots of things going on, means more choice for everyone on the day. I hope you get to experience everything Pride has to offer on the day.
I know where Pride can get an extra £40,000, if I get it to you then can we move back to Dale Street?
Fantastic! We totally want to talk to you about this. Provided the donation/funding/sponsorship is legal and definitely available, we would be so grateful! However, at this late stage we are not 100% sure that this would get us back on Dale St this year, as the preparations all have to be agreed so far in advance. Such a generous donation would go a long way in ensuring that the festival is back on Dale St next year though!
I really want Liverpool Pride to be a success and for us to carry on having a Pride festival in the city, how can I help?
Liverpool Pride is run by volunteers and with the support of a lot of other organisations and businesses. There are lots of ways you can help:
- Volunteering – there are lots of different volunteer roles, both in the run up to the festival and on the weekend of Pride, if you can spare some time then get in touch (training provided)
- Making a donation – if you would like to make a donation on line please click here, or give at a collection on the day – if everyone who came last year had donated just £2 we would be able to have the festival on Dale St this year
- Organise a fundraiser – it could be anything from a sponsored zumabthon® to a pub quiz, get in touch if you would like to organise a fundraiser – if you raise £100 or more you can join our Hot 100 list and get VIP stuff!
- Run a fringe event – particularly if you work in the bar/cafe/restaurant/cultural sector, organise an event with a Pride/LGBT theme and we’ll be happy to promote it
- Become a trustee – if you would like to join the board of Liverpool Pride and have skills in one of the following areas we'd love to hear from you:
- Accountancy/treasurer experience
- Company Secretary
- Be there! – We keep Pride free so anyone can join in, so even if you can’t afford a small donation then be there for us, march through the streets, come to the Pier Head and fringe events, follow us on Facebook and keep talking to us!