June is Pride Month and I caught up with Bruno Montenegro and Naomi Leach, who are both Assistants to the Festival Curator for Pride in London, and I wanted to know what goes into planning something like London Pride. The event has been criticised in the past for not representing the true diversity of the LGBTQ+ community so I also wanted to know what are they doing to tackle this issue.
How did you get involved in the event planning of Pride in London?
Naomi– I’ve been living in London for about two years now and I started working at a bank, it was soul destroying and crazy and was thinking I wasn’t doing anything outside of this and I started thinking about my community. I have a girlfriend and I wasn’t doing anything for society other than working for a big bank. I started looking on the Pride website and they had ‘Assistant to the Festival Curator’ and I applied. There was a shortlist of like 10 people to interview and they interviewed me and Bruno, obviously we were amazing *laughs* and it started from there.
Bruno– We started at the same time and last year was the first time they appointed someone to be a curator of the festival and it became its own entity. I had never been to Pride before but I wanted to be more active in the community. I’m not a big fan of the clubbing scene but I knew I wanted to do something within the community but I didn’t know what. By coincidence I was at a bar one day and I met this guy who works for Pride and we started talking about Pride and I went on the website and I felt like the perfect match, I was able to work with the gay community and also work within the arts, which I am really passionate about.
What do you enjoy about the planning process?
N– I think the difference between the festival this year compared to last year is huge. The festival last year we were bought on board, brought up to speed fairly quickly and we were more involved in the helping of the logistics. We had about 30 events in the festival last year and this year its increased to 40-50 and it’s been more of a proactive approach and trying to make it more diverse in different ways. I like the broad nature of what we’ve got this year.
B– In January we had nothing, obviously we had plans but to see it build up from nothing to 40+ events, including events in Carnaby Street and The Natural History Museum which are really high profile and to see it go from 0 to 100, it’s like seeing your baby grow!
What is your favourite venue?
B– Okay, so the cool thing is that we have a lot of different ones and they’re all ca
tered for different things like the Natural History Museum or the Soho Theatre or the Chelsea Theatre. They’re all so different and the event will be tailored to the venue they’re in. I kind of love them all but my personal favourite is the V&A just because I love that museum. There will be an LGBTQ+ tour of the V&A during the festival which I am quite looking forward to.
N- Now I do love the Soho Theatre, it has a special place in my heart and the thing is that a lot of the events that we are doing don’t have one specific venue. There’s Ghost Bus tours and Pride Rides- those are the really cool ones! [laughs]
B– Also, the fact that we’re having an event in the Natural History Museum, that place is also awesome. You know, having a Pride event right next to Dinosaurs! [laughs]
What’s going to be the focus in the Natural History Museum?
N– We’ve got about 4 or 5 key spaces in the museum so as part of the late night events that we do, we’re touching up 4,000 people that come through on an evening. And there’s going to 5 different paces with performances dotted around.
B- And we’re having everything from Drag Queens to Solo performers to Science talks and most of it is free so that’s really cool as well.
Okay, so you touched on it before but how does this year’s event differ from the previous years?
B– I’d say it mainly about the scale, the scale of it. We’ve got larger as a team so we have more things on and we’re much more organised and a lot more structured. Eventually, what we’d like to achieve is a festival that represents London, it is more the LGBTQ+ community but it’s a festival for everyone, we want it to be something for people to look forward to. A special date in the London calendar. As long as we continue to grow the way the festival is growing, there’s nothing to stop it from becoming even bigger and more important culturally.
You said scale of the festival is getting bigger, so how in advance do you need to book everything like the stage in Trafalgar Square etc.?
N– The Trafalgar Square stuff is dealt with by the team who look after the stages so I think they have an on-going agreement. But for us and the festival stuff, we start to talk about it from when it starts at the end of the year. We start to launch the application process in Jan/Feb time for events to come to us. So I think it’s fairly far in advance but we have ideas certainly six months to a year in advance
What separates Pride in London from the other pride festivals across the UK/Europe?
N– With Pride in London it’s the scale. I know we keep saying the scale! Last year there was close to a million visitors at the festival.
B– Its free!
N– It’s the vibe you get from the entire community in London, let alone just the LGBT community. The importance it has for the local businesses- I think that’s true of any event but I think there is a huge amount of focus put on us just because we’re the Capital. Its free and the amount of stages we got that represent the different parts of the LGBT community, we have the big one and obviously the women’s stage and the family stage.
B– And Pride just isn’t a one-day event. We have the ten days leading up to Pride as well as the actual parade. I’m pretty sure no other cities do the same thing as us. Last year was the first time I went to Pride and what really impressed me was how family friendly it is. I had no idea and it wasn’t just gay families and it was just a big carnival with everyone having a good time. I thought it was really cool how it was inclusive to those who may not identify as LGBT- some people are just there to have a good time.
N– And that’s the idea- we want to make sure everyone feels welcome.
How do you encourage diversity in your events to make sure LGBT+ people of all backgrounds are welcome?
B– We can only be as diverse as people who submit their events to us because we don’t actually have many events that we put together ourselves, there are people that come to us and we help them put the event together. But also, Pride has a board of people who are responsible for taking care of the equality side of things and when someone submits an event for the festival, they have to fill out a form to explain what they identify as etc. We are trying our best and we try to represent everyone in the community and we are always trying to find events that are diverse as possible. From the planning we try to go to other events and start sending out pamphlets to get the word out there to try and make it as open as we possibly can.
It seems like it’s a two-way street in that Pride in London wants to make itself diverse but it’s up to the people who are diverse to submit their ideas.
N– Yes exactly! And that’s why it’s important to have a conversation like this because with AZ Magazine is the perfect platform to talk about this and get the word out there.
Visit www.pride.co.uk/events to find information about all the events that are taking place during June to celebrate Pride Month.
There is also an app called ‘Pride in London’ which you can download for free from the App Store. The app helps people plan their Pride, it has listings of what is happening on which dates and gives you more information about all the events.
Feature image: Colm Howard-Lloyd