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Sadiq Khan urged to reform Pride in London in letter signed by Peter Tatchell and more

"I hope it will generate a much-needed debate within our community about who runs Pride, how it is run and Pride’s future character and direction," says Tatchell

2021-10-20

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: wiki/Pexels

An open letter addressed to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan urging reform to Pride In London has been shared with the public.

The letter, spearheaded by Peter Tatchell, is singed by 13 more “leading members of the LGBTQ community,” said the human rights campaigner in a statement released today.

Pride is funded by the Mayor and has a contract with his office.

“We are urging the Mayor to take action, given that Pride in London is no longer abiding by its contract and has lost the trust and confidence of much of the LGBTIQ community. I hope the Mayor will meet us,” says Tatchell.

“We do not claim to have all the answers. We see this letter as a catalyst for change. I hope it will generate a much-needed debate within our community about who runs Pride, how it is run and Pride’s future character and direction. We welcome others contributing ideas.

“The successful 'Reclaim Pride' march on 24 July shows there is a yearning for change, in particular for a truly inclusive community-based Pride and a Pride that is both a celebration and a protest for LGBTIQ human rights.”

Attitude has approached Pride In London for comment.

Tatchell is a patron of Pride in London and helped organise the UK’s first Pride march in 1972. He has marched in every Pride London parade since 1972.

The letter in full

Dear Sadiq Khan, 

We the undersigned believe that the Mayor of London’s office should act now to demand the removal of the current board of directors of London LGBTIQ Community Pride CIC (Pride in London or PiL) and their replacement by a new team representative of, and accountable to, the whole LGBTIQ community. 

This is to ensure that a successful 50th anniversary Pride event can be delivered in 2022.

It is also vital that Pride in London reverts to its original core purposes: the celebration of LGBTIQ life and culture, the promotion LGBTIQ human rights and the inclusion of all sections of the LGBTIQ community. 

While we acknowledge, appreciate and praise the many hours of effort put in by the Pride in London organisers and volunteers, the leadership of the organisation is no longer representative of the LGBTIQ community it claims to serve. It is self-appointed, non-transparent and lacking oversight and accountability. 

This letter with our concerns is based on feedback from a broad cross-section of the LGBTIQ community in London. The views we express are widely shared. 

Our nine demands are: 

Pride in London has been accused of racism, bullying and intimidatory behaviour towards some of its volunteers and these allegations have never been investigated, let alone remedied. 

1

We demand an inquiry into the allegations of racism and bullying. 

An independent investigation by Lisa Power was critical and made recommendations. Nine months after it was submitted, Pride in London has refused to publish her damning report. This gives the impression of a cover-up. Our community has a right to know. 

2

We demand the long overdue public release of Lisa Power’s report. 

Pride in London has no apparent community oversight, as required by its contract with the Mayor of London. The entire Community Advisory Board resigned in protest at the failures of Pride in London. The organisation has lost the trust, confidence and support of many in the LGBTIQ communities.

The remaining old Pride in London leadership have refused to resign, despite a raft of resignations by their colleagues, including the co-chairs. They seem to be carrying on as before, as if nothing happened, impervious to constructive criticism and attempts at serious dialogue. They have failed the LGBTIQ community and the people of London.

The new executive director has refused dialogue and has failed to deliver any consultation with the community.

Pride in London has done away with the tradition of a gender diverse leadership of two, one male and one female, at the top of the organisation.

Pride in London has drifted far from the original ideals of Pride. It is depoliticised and successive parades have been devoid of any significant promotion of LGBTIQ human rights. It is now far too corporate and commercial, with corporate and commercial interests having undue influence over many aspects of Pride in London.

This allegedly includes who takes the most prominent float space in the parade and the allocation of a higher number of wristbands to commercial sponsors than to community groups – which prevents many of the community from taking part in the parade.

It appears that Pride in London has increasingly become a prime branding and advertising opportunity for companies eager to exploit the LGBTI+ community as consumers. Pride should be about human rights, not profits.

3

We demand that LGBTIQ human rights are front and centre in the promotion of Pride in London and in the annual parade. 

Pride in London appears to have placed corporate funding ahead of community engagement. It has even lost its iconic march route, which had existed for decades.

The organisation has fundamentally lost its way and failed to deliver a world class pride event. Pride in London is one of the smallest Prides of any capital city in the Western world. The parade has an authoritarian limit of 30,000 marchers, imposed by the city authorities and agreed by Pride in London, against the wishes of the LGBTIQ community. Every year, tens of thousands of people are denied permission to march. This goes against the Pride principle that anyone and everyone can participate.

Pride should be open to all which, in the late 1990s, resulted in over 100,000 people joining the parade.

4

We demand that the limit on the numbers in the parade is lifted.

Moreover, to march in the Pride parade, a person has to belong to a registered organisation and get a paid-for wristband. A small number of people can march as individuals but they, too, have to register in advance. No wristband results in no permission to march.

5

We demand the wristband requirement be scrapped. 

Pride in London volunteers are required to sign away their legal right to freedom of expression by agreeing to a sweeping, legally binding non-disclosure agreement. This can potentially be used as a means of silencing criticism, preventing whistleblowing and burying complaints.

6

We demand that NDA contracts should only be applicable in very limited circumstances where there is a genuine safety or security concern.

There is no independent complaints procedure, to hold Pride in London accountable when things go wrong.

7

We demand an independent complaints procedure that is transparent and accessible, without any threat of retaliation or retribution.

Following the resignation of the Community Advisory Board in protest at the way it was ignored and side-lined, Pride in London is now in violation of its contract with the Mayor of London.

8

We demand the creation of an independent LGBTIQ community body to provide scrutiny, advice, oversight and accountability to Pride in London, including on issues such as sponsorship and whether organisations like the police and arms manufacturers should be allowed to march in the parade. 

While there is no evidence of impropriety as far as we know, there is a potential conflict of interest between the role of Pride in London organisers and their professional employment – especially in the case of the award of contracts and Unity Fund grants made by Pride in London.

9

We demand that for the sake of transparency, accountability and confidence, all Pride in London organisers should be required to sign a publicly accessible register of interests. 

Pride in London has had many chances to develop and listen, but it has so far not delivered any meaningful change. Many people believe it has explicitly failed the trans community and the black community.

Our community deserves better. London deserves better.

By acting now, the Mayor of London’s office has time to ensure a new community-based board of directors to deliver the event in 2022.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Linda Riley, Founder of Lesbian Visibility Week

Ade John, former Local Groups Representative on the Community Advisory Board of Pride in London

Rob Millwood, former Deputy Director of Operations at Pride in London

Alessandro Storer, Head of Pride in the City (Strategic Partnerships) at Pride in London

Ashwin Bungarnayak, Deputy Director of Community Engagement at Pride in London

Chris Murray, Accessibility Community Engagement Manager at Pride in London

Simon Tavener, Mental Health Lead at Pride in London

Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, former Chair of the Community Advisory Board of Pride in London

Elisha Foust, former Women’s Representative on the Community Advisory Board of Pride in London

Ramses Underhill-Smith, former Trans Community Advisor on the Community Advisory Board of Pride in London

Brit Clayton, former Professionals Group Representative on the Community Advisory Board of Pride in London

Libby Baxter-Williams, Director, bisexual rights group Biscuit

Lois Shearing, Founder & Director of the Bi Survivors Network & BWithTheT