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Wednesday 08 October 2008

How's HERO?

Posted in: Events
By Matt Akersten - 3rd July 2008

Hero's Frederic Guillemont: "We're committed to 2009 - and 2010".
Auckland's HERO Festival will be 20 years old in 2010 - and like so many teenagers, it's had its far share of growing pains, money woes and high drama, leaving its loving extended whanau in our community to help it through each crisis as it grows.

But as we rang in the New Year 2008 on K' Road, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the whole Hero Festival was dead and buried - no one seemed to know what was going on, the usual community stalwarts hadn't been contacted, and the unquenchable rumour mill had begun work. Then, as if by magic, it suddenly all rolled out into another memorable month of LGBT events.

"We got a lot wrong this year," admits Frederic Guillemont of the Hero Brand Management Group as we take a seat at Family bar on a chilly winter's evening. "We left everything until too late. A lot should've been ready to go by August or September - so we had a hard time getting anything organised before Christmas and after New Year.

"We were criticised for that - but most of that criticism came from the people in our team. We knew we could do better. And we now know how to improve - and not to pretend we know everything."

Guillemont's lengthy experience with the Oceania Football Confederation stood him in good stead when he took the Hero reigns in mid-2007, since there are similarities between the two organisations - they exist to cater for their communities.

"The philosophy of Hero hasn't changed. It's about building the capacity of smaller 'grass roots' groups, bringing different groups together to an event the wider LGBT communities can enjoy, and also branching out to the mainstream community," he explains. The Annual Heroic Gardens Tour is just one example of a popular 'cross-over' event for Hero which appeals to the straight garden-lovers as well as the gay ones.

Lessons have been learned, and now the Hero crew has a plan. "Throughout July, we'll be asking people in our community whether Hero is on the right track. How can we improve? Should we transform completely? If the majority say we're going wrong - we'll modify what we do.

"Our community has changed," Guillemont recognises. "I hear people in their early 20's now saying that 'Hero isn't our thing'. But we need the young people - the new crowd - to pick it up."

The Hero Brand Management Group, backed up by a collection of community leaders making up the Hero Trust, work well together and are in a strong position going into next year, Guillemont assures us. "We're all committed to 2009, and are also working towards the 20th anniversary in 2010." Though 2008's Festival didn't make quite enough money to cover costs, the Brand Management Group structure ensures that in recent years the financial risk of each of Hero's various activities is taken on by the groups running their own events, putting Hero in a much less costly - and risky - position. "We're not about making money," he confirms, "only covering costs of the printed guide and promoting the festival."

Finally, I ask about the Parade. Are we still 'go' for its return? Guillemont replies firmly: "The Parade must be back for 2010. It's not an option. We're firm on that one.

"So our plan is to start planning now for both 2009 and the Parade in 2010. The Hero Parade is the best visibility for our community. No one is saying no to that."

Frederic Guillemont and the Hero Brand Management Team want to hear from people interested in joining the Hero team, holding an event, or even simply airing their views on the festival's direction. His email address is

Matt Akersten - 3rd July 2008