August 18th sees the arrival of the 12th Doncaster Pride event.
Words: Jenny Dewsnap
Photography: John Fuller
As Doncaster’s biggest town centre event, it’s predicted that Doncaster Pride will draw over 10,000 people into the town centre. Coordinating a free cultural event is no easy endeavour. We asked the Chair of Doncaster Pride how it’s possible to host such a big event, and what role local businesses play in the event’s success.
August 2007, the budget for the first ever Pride was in the region of £1.5k, given by South Yorkshire Police to improve integration and visibility. This year, the 12th Pride, we’ll turn over close to £25k. We’re still a free event too. So yes, the last 12 years have seen lots of changes. In the early days, we had little or no business involvement, sponsorship or visibility in the town other than the event site for just one day a year. We were dependent on a mix of grant funding and fundraising but even in the early days we were committed to growing the event, even if at times we were unsure how.
We’ve seen gay venues come and go. Many fundraised year-round, but in the last 6 years this has been virtually nothing, so where does this money and growth come from?
It’s really been a case of more visibility and more acceptance that has led to more awareness and more realisation that the event, although rooted in LGBT+ rights, is these days more a mix of remembrance and celebration, and this then gives the business community, the brand managers and the marketers, the opportunity to get a message to our audience of around 15,000 people.
In Doncaster we have a great relationship with our sponsors, and a growing number of businesses ever year who want to advertise themselves with us. This can be hotels, restaurants, taxi firms, or even distribution and manufacturing businesses. What’s more is we give them a great deal, an opportunity to support a local charity, a ‘feel good’ event that brings money and people into Doncaster and one that uses funds not only to deliver the event but, 12 years on, they can now invest in helping us deliver, 365 days a year, support to the LGBT+ community.
Whichever way you look at it, business funding supports the community and provides commercial exposure of a product or service at the same time, and we’re happy with that. We never hide behind what the money does and how it helps us to scale up, so our new commercial model isn’t a tick box exercise for businesses to demonstrate equality and diversity, but also valued exposure to the extremely diverse crowd, many thousands of website visitors and also investment in our year-round efforts at the same time.
We value our sponsors’ and advertisers’ financial support, but also the exposure their involvement gives us as a positive affirmation that our work, which remains to be visible to promote education, celebrate pour sexuality and our rights to love whom we choose, and this is something they want to support and be affiliated with.
As pride continues to evolve, it may be that the commercialisation proves, to a large extent, to be a generational one. If you take our older audience, who lived in times of activism and grew up in a different society to those who grew up in the reality of same-sex marriage and belief that the AIDS epidemic was over, their opinions will be vastly different. Millenials have grown up in a commercialised culture and absolutely accept that every aspect of life, both on- and offline, is colonised by marketers.
So, Pride has become a commercial success, but have we lost sight of our political roots?
Pride-goers last year will recall the now ‘famous’ intro section was given over to a series of images of protesters in countries still opressed. This spurred on our solidarity with those less fortunate than ourselves and showed that we remain grounded in the history of protest and still believe this is relevant today as much as it ever was.
Today, some within the LGBT+ community still struggle with identity, acceptance, and coming to terms with who they are. We’ve been told that who we are is wrong and unnatural and homosexuality was, and still is, frowned upon. So, the commercial world, whatever your opinion of it, helps normalise homosexuality and helps promote the positive message that being gay is normal and okay.
So, for us that’s how Pride succeeds with its new business-related model for funding, it’s how it gets more inclusive and welcoming every year and, as the community becomes more integrated, more straight people come, and more minds are opened to the possibility that we gays might just be regular people after all. (Albeit with better decorating sense and the sass to pull off more outrageous outfits.)
There’s a burgeoning new drag haus in town. Doncopolitan take pride in supporting both Zehaus and Fluid/ity, Doncaster’s exciting new drag collective, and monthly live drag show. Hosted by Doncaster’s legendary Warehouse, Fluid/ity continues the tradition of collaboration between drag and dance music, which stretches back to the New York ballroom scene in the eighties and nineties, not to mention the mutual influence Chicago house and voguing have had on each other. Doncopolitan is committed to supporting art in all its wondrous forms and when Donny does summat, it does it well. There are all sorts of behind the scenes happenings that contribute towards a full monthly live drag show, and Doncopolitan are proud to support Fluid/ity and Zehaus in any way we can.