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Thursday 09 October 2008

Live reports from the Big Gay Out 2008

Posted in: Events
By reporters at Coyle Park - 10th February 2008

7.30pm: Police, medics and the organiser of today's Big Gay Out say the crowd was well behaved and no behavioral problems occurred.

St John Ambulance staff say they did not need to treat a single person, with the overcast weather cutting back the risk of sunburn and sunstroke often encountered at big outdoor summer events.

Event organiser Jonathan Smith, speaking as his teams dismantle the small village created for the picnic day and clear away rubbish, says the crowd was "exceedingly well behaved" all day, and the many uniformed police Diversity Liaison Officers in attendance were able to relax and enjoy the occasion. "The DLOs had an excellent day, many of them mentioned that it was great for them to be able to get out into the glbt community," Smith says.

The seven hour event seems to have run smoothly, which Smith attributes to the hard work of his 'yellowshirt' teams of community volunteers.

5.20PM: Celebs & ordinary glbt folk enjoying "fabulous" day

As the Big Gay Out enters its final two hours the dance and party tents are packed with sweating bodies stripped to the waist, while celebrities, public figures and ordinary glbt folk are still enjoying the picnic day atmosphere.

A wide range of people from within the glbt communities and from further afield have attended the Pt Chevalier, Auckland, event, ranging from eccentrically creative performance artist DeZaStar to former Governor General Dame Sylvia Cartwright.

High profile Drag Diva, Buckwheat, currently on stage MCing the final entertainment, says she is thrilled with the wide variety of people who have attended. "Its been a crazy day, I've been to every BGO so far and this is fabulous. Every organiser has brought something different to the annual event," she says.

Buckwheat, aka Edward Cowley, explains she has spent the day bumping into lots of people she knows but is also impressed with how many people at the picnic day she has never seen before. "It's exactly what the Big Gay Out should be about," she says, "giving people who might not have other ways of joining in with the glbt communities somewhere to share each other's company." She says she hasn't seen anyone who isn't enjoying themselves.

Christchurch MP Tim Barnett says he is impressed with the nationwide reach of the Big Gay Out. "There's a wonderful collection of people here today. It's not just an Auckland event." He says he has seen people from all around the country. "It's been a beautiful day."

The Big Gay Out officially shuts down at 7pm this evening.

3.50PM: Numbers down as weather holds

Although the crowd at Coyle Park, site of Auckland's Big Gay Out, is continuing to swell, numbers are clearly down on last year, with the uncertain weather being fingered as the cause.

The humidity level is high but dark clouds which created several heavy showers in the central city have bypassed the BGO.

Official estimates of crowd size are unavailable, but our reporters say 'several thousand' people have gathered at the Pt Chevalier site. The Big Gay Out traditionally kicks off the Hero Festival with crowds well in excess of 6,000. Event organiser Jonathan Smith says he is still "very pleased" at the numbers who have come out for the family picnic and entertainment day. "The weather has been remarkably kind to us so far," he says, aware that the forecast for today included heavy rain and even a possibility of thunderstorms. With the afternoon half over Smith says he is now able to relax and leave the running of the event to his "capable and enthusiastic" teams of helpers.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, who arrived two hours ago, is still making her way around the site in the company of security minders and Auckland Central MP Judith Tizard, continually waylaid by people who want to chat with her or request a photograph in her company. In the GABA Hospitality Tent a number of MPs and high profile glbt community leaders are relaxing, including National's John Key, Pansy Wong and Jacquie Blue. Recently civil unioned couple, the Hon. Chris Carter MP and Peter Kaiser are holding court, in the company of lesbian Mayoral Candidate Lisa Prager, Ex NZAF Chair Jeremy Lambert, TV producer and ex Gay Auckland Business Association (GABA) chair Johnny Givens and representatives of community organisations such as Outline and Hero.

The Family dance tent is now packed to bursting and reporters and photographers say there are plenty of 'cute' men and women to feast the eyes on, though fewer men than usual have opted to go topless.

Photos from the Big Gay Out, New Zealand's biggest annual glbt event, will be posted on later this evening.

3.20PM: Furtive Banks in sling at Big Gay Out

Auckland Mayor John Banks, who for decades has made much of anti-gay rhetoric but claimed during last year's local body elections to have morphed into a more caring person, has made a fleeting visit to the Big Gay Out glbt picnic day, apparently without connecting with anyone involved in running the event. has been advised by two politically observant people that Banks was seen at the BGO shortly after it started at midday, sporting a sling on one arm.

Event organiser Jonathan Smith, Official hosts the NZ AIDS Foundation and the operators of the VIP hospitality tent all say they were not even aware that Banks had put in an appearance. Several stallholders said they had not seen him and suggested his visit must have been "rather furtive."

On an afternoon which is growing increasingly fine and humid after this morning's cool, drizzly conditions, families are staking out favoured positions with picnic blankets, umbrellas, pergolas and even tents. Children are currently gathered around the main stage where the MC and a clown are keeping them amused.

At the Fun Fair the play boxing, velcro suits and other amusements are proving popular and the aromas of cooking food are wafting from the many food stalls.
The VIP Hospitality tent is packed and the Fluffy bar tent and Family dance tent are proving popular.

As more and more people make their way to Coyle Park the afternoon is proving relaxed and friendly with no sign of the few anti-gay protesters who have provided an irritation at some previous BGOs.

2.45PM: PM signals hate crimes action and plugs safe sex

The Government intends moving ahead with anti-hate speech legislation, the Prime Minister told the Big Gay Out crowd in her speech from the main entertainment stage in  which she also
obliquely signaled support for striking down gay panic defense.

Flanked by the full cohort of Labour's gay and lesbian MPs, including Chris Carter, Tim Barnett, Charles Chauvel and Maryan Street, the PM said the Government will "get tough" with hate crimes which include crimes committed against glbt people on the basis of sexuality. No timetable was given for the tabling of a Bill to address this issue and although no specific mention was made of the Law Commission's recommendation that gay panic defense be struck off the law books, Ms Clark did say that the motivation behind hate crimes should be taken into account in sentencing. This is widely expected to  be a practical measure needed if and when gay panic defense is abolished.

Ms Clark noted the prominent police presence at the Big Gay Out, New Zealand's largest glbt event. Thirty of the Police's diversity liaison officers have been flown into Auckland from around the country to attend the event to broaden their understanding of the glbt communities and to attend a diversity Liaison seminar.
The PM reiterated the Government's commitment to diversity, plugged the Hero Festival Debate, praised the NZAF for its work and urged the gay men in the crowd to practise safe sex, as "prevention is the only answer and there is no cure for HIV."

Senior politicians at humid Big Gay Out

The prime minister has just arrived at Auckland's Big Gay Out picnic day and is making her way towards the main stage. Helen Clark was preceded by National party and Opposition leader John Key who gave a speech light on glbt content but supportive of tollerance and promising commitment to the future work of the NZ AIDS Foundation.

Key made no mentions of diversity or gay, lesbian, transsexual people, instead telling the crowd about his visit to a Sri Lankan immigrant community event and his hopes that that community's young people would grow up in a tolerant society. Before stating that he will return to the Big Gay Out next year he advised the crowd that National's priority should it win the next election are lifting wages, making the community safer, education initiatives and stopping the flow of NZers leaving for Australia.

Around one thousand people have already gathered at Coyle Park at the tip of the Pt Chevalier Peninsula, enjoying warm humid condition and clear skies. Weather conditions were unpromising with dense low cloud cover and regular drifts of drizzle.'s reporters at the BGO say already people are noticing the heat, ditching warm and waterproof clothing and accepting free sun screen being handed out by the Cancer Society.

Coyle Park is presenting a colourful scene with a wide variety of food, community and entertainment stalls. Parking along the peninsula is already becoming scarce, both in Pt. Chev Road and its side streets, however a BGO shuttle bus running the length of the peninsula should help those who have to park further afield. will continue to report live from the Big Gay Out throughout the afternoon. reporters at Coyle Park - 10th February 2008