World Pride before a fall – budget crisis wrecks gay festival

Cutbacks threaten to turn London event into a 'shambles', warns LGBT community

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Drastic cutbacks to the first World Pride festival to be staged in London have been described as a "shambles" and "huge blow" to the gay community.

Organisers of the World Pride festival announced yesterday that the event to celebrate the "equality and diversity" of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community would go ahead despite rumours of its cancellation.

But against the backdrop of a more difficult economic climate and "tough sponsorship calls", there had been a shortfall in funding for the event, a spokesman for Pride London, the event's organiser, said as he outlined cutbacks to the event.

He said the planned parade on 7 July would now be a procession through London's West End, starting at Baker Street and finishing in Whitehall, but without vehicles or floats.

The start time has changed from 1pm to 11am, with the event due to finish in Trafalgar Square at 6pm.

There will be no official World Pride events in Soho, with the planned Golden Square event now cancelled.

The human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "The sudden, drastic curtailment of the World Pride parade, rally and street parties is a huge blow to London and its gay community. The promised extravaganza looks set to descend into a chaotic damp squib."

Mr Tatchell, who helped organise Britain's first Gay Pride parade in 1972, claimed the changed start time was a "huge gamble" and the event could well descend into mayhem, with much of central London becoming "gridlocked for hours with vast confused crowds".

He claimed many revellers would not be able to change their plans at this late stage and would arrive at the scheduled start point long after the parade had departed.

He said: "This year is the first time that London has hosted World Pride which brings together LGBT people from all over the world to participate in a parade, rally and human rights conference.

"Visitors from all over Britain and the world face disappointment. It will do great damage to London's reputation just three weeks before the Olympics.

"Banning floats in the parade is a big blow to the many LGBT charities that have spent thousands of pounds on hiring and decorating them. They will lose a major opportunity to raise their profile and publicise their work."

A spokeswoman for Mayor Boris Johnson said City Hall had provided funding of £100,000 towards World Pride with a "vibrant walking procession" planned.

Mr Johnson said: "Pride is a fantastic and vital event in London's calendar, which we are proud to sponsor. We have worked hard with the organisers and other agencies and I'm delighted that it will be going ahead."