London Mayor Boris Johnson cuts Soho Pride funding

// 12 August 2008

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London Mayor Boris Johnson has slashed £10,000 from Soho Pride, just over a week before the event is due to take place.

Soho Pride is a smaller gay pride event in London that is based around the gay bars in Soho.

Soho Pride is one of around 20 community festivals in London that is under threat due to cuts in funding from the Mayor’s office. Other threatened events include Liberty – disability arts festival; the Jewish Simcha on the Square; Vaisakhi; Baishakhi Mela; Celebrating Sanctuary (refugee festival) and Black History Month events.

Pickled Politics blog comments “Unsurprisingly, now Boris wants to cut funding from them all [the community festivals] so they can rely on the businesses to support them. The guy is adamant on making London lifeless again.”

In a letter to the Soho Pride organisers, Boris Johnson said that the funding destined for Soho Pride would be re-directed to other LGBT causes: “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.”

Despite the insistence that the money will be go towards other LGBT issues, London’s LGBT population should consider this a warning. After all, this is a man that vocally supported Thatcher’s Section 28 (which made the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality illegal in schools) and famously wrote: “If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.”

Writing on the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog, Richard Adam Smith notes “His record in office, after just four months, does not bode well. The withdrawal of funding for Soho Pride is not Johnson’s first snub to lesbians and gay men in London. In July, he announced he was scrapping the mayor’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advisory panel, which was set up by Ken Livingstone in March. His predecessor’s support for an LGBT museum in London and the capital’s hosting of the Gay Games also now look likely to be quietly dropped.”

[cross-posted at Lesbilicious]

Comments From You

Shev // Posted 12 August 2008 at 5:47 pm

This… just… makes… me… so…. MAD that I can barely get my words out. I seriously hate that man so much. How dare he have himslef photographed in a pink cowboy hat, and say that he’s proud to represent a city of diversity when he’s doing his best to kill that diversity at every step?

I mean, the commercialisation of Pride is a really big problem, because it relies on a really specific view of the gay community – the market-driven ‘scene’, which is run mostly by and for men (that old chestnut again, the pay gap, which here leads to men having the disposable income to create that consumer-driven scene), and politics is driven out of the window because what business wants to sponsor a political view? And politics is what it should be about – celebrating our rights, and fighting for those who haven’t got them.

But Boris Johnson is an even bigger problem, because he typifies that whole ‘I know what’s best for you. I ahve received preferential treatment the whole way through, because I am upper class, white, male and straight. Due to this, I have received the best education and job opportunities, which makes me the most qualified to be in charge of all of you. So what do I know about discrimination? Well, I know it works!”

Saranga // Posted 12 August 2008 at 11:21 pm

Arrrggghgggghh. Fucker. I am so so so angry.

rodolphe // Posted 13 August 2008 at 7:24 am

Shame, cos I’m one of those people who do not like London Pride for its commercial, superficial and tacky but love Soho Pride. Boris and the Westminster council seems to forget that Soho without its gay and italian community would still be a slum. I find it quite worrying Boris also cuts fundings for both Soho Pride, Liberty and Black History Month. It’s like a slap in the face of minorities. It’s very hypocritical from him to say he is going to reinject money into stopping homophobic bullying while supporting Section 28. Never trusted that man, it’s not only the terrible hairdo he’s just a populist.

Mairead // Posted 14 August 2008 at 6:58 pm

Hello, I LOVE this blog and agree fully with the comments on this post. But I’m not sure this is really the place for it. Are we discussing feminism or gay pride? The two issues must not be confused. It’s just strengthening the awful ‘Feminist are you? Must be a lesbian’ attitude that still exists in some places. Not that I care if people think I’m gay, you understand, I just feel really sad that this attitude persists, especially among teens.

Funding for Pride is important, as are global warming, world poverty, and the very existence of Boris Johnson. All these issues must be a concern to all sensible folk. But I come here for feminism and find posts about other things (e.g. LGBT issues, Olympics protests) at best irrelevant and at worst exclusionist. I don’t have to be gay to be angry!

Anyway, enjoy the festival. Let BJ know you don’t need his dirty cash!

Jess McCabe // Posted 15 August 2008 at 12:08 am

Hi Mairead, I’m glad you love the blog.

You’ve tapped into some interesting stuff with your comment, such as ‘what comes under feminism?’ and ‘how are homophobia and sexism connected?’ and also ‘what’s the best way to combat homophobic stereotypes about feminists?’

I’ll tackle the last one of these questions first: the reason that people say things like “all feminists are lesbians”, is because they know very well they are playing off engrained homophobia in our society. It is an inherantly homophobic statement, because it suggests that there’s something wrong with being a lesbian if it can be used as part of an insult.

Can the answer to this be for feminist blogs or groups, and/or straight women to basically disassociate themselves with lesbian and bisexual women? I feel it would be just be wrong for The F Word to seek to appeal to teenage girls by just not posting about issues that affect lesbian and bisexual women, such as Pride. Some of those teenage girls will be lesbian and some of them will be bisexual. And so are some of us posting here are The F Word. Although I don’t really think this was your intention, taking in your whole comment, you’ve effectively left a message implying “why are you talking about your gay issue in this feminist space, it might scare straight girls off”.

Now, for the issue of why funding for Pride is being posted about on a feminist blog. One answer to this is simply that feminism is about women, and supporting women. And many women are directly invested in fighting homophobia and also, related, heteronormativity, and also transphobia. And directly invested in events like Pride which (at least in theory) are about women’s (ok, men’s too, I grant you) choice, safety, freedom, self-expression.

However, generally speaking there are many more links and resonances between feminism and the LGBT movement than just that lesbian and bisexual women “happen” to be women, which go to the root of what homophobia is about. Homophobia, in my view, and it’s a theory that’s been written about plenty, is deeply connected to sexism. Consider how often homophobic insults are used on women and men, girls and boys, who ‘step out of line’ on gender roles. Men and boys who don’t conform to masculine behaviour codes or appearance, for example, are often targetted with homophobic slurs, and the same goes for women (actually, the example of trying to scare women and girls from identifying with feminism is an example of this). Obviously, Pride is relevant on this score as well. Homophobes conflate sexuality and gender expression, because being attracted to/having a relationship with someone of the same sex is breaking the gender role rule that part of being a man is sleeping with women, and part of being a woman is sleeping with men. Or, well, that’s how I see it anyway.

christopher potts // Posted 16 August 2008 at 7:32 pm

I am new to london and have been here for a good few months and am so fucked off but at the and of the day the conservative’s always think they know best .they are so homophobic and are against anything that is different to what they believe.

at least from this i know who i wont be voting for in the general election

Colin // Posted 18 August 2008 at 10:00 am

Who here went to Soho pride?

It has always been 99% commercial. I went yesterday as in previous years, and there were about 3 ‘community’ stalls on Frith Street and that was it. The rest was entirely commercially viable stuff, with plenty of pricey drinks for sale and sponsors aplenty.

The whole point of Pride is to demonstrate to the wider public ‘who we are’. Hiding away in the depths of Soho in a static street party is not Pride. I’m glad Boris has the guts to tell Soho’s scene queens and kings where he’d prefer to put his funding – Stonewall’s education for all campaign.

Boris has guaranteed to continue funding London Pride which commands 10x as much funding (£100k instead of £10k). Seeing as it attracts 800,000 people and is seen by pretty much every tourist, shopper and resident of the west end, it is a far more relevant event.

The LGBT advisory panel was an unelected and was totally powerless talking shop. Ken was responsible for this sham and the real point is that there should and could be a properly accountable and powerful body there. I’m not that hopeful that Boris will implement it but let’s focus on getting him to do it.

Almeerah // Posted 19 August 2008 at 3:21 pm

B Johnson’s election caused me the greatest anxieties. All his policies so far have confirmed my fears – the man is over policing London and is slowly but surely reducing chances for minorities to express themselves. We are slowly but surely walking towards dictatorship. And nobody realises the danger. Maybe that’s the scariest point of all.

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