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Thursday 10 November 2016

WGTN Pride Festival: Grassroots community at it's best

Posted in: Events
By Daily News staff - 4th March 2016

The first ever Wellington Pride Festival | Tū whakahīhī e Te Whanganui-ā-Tara kicks off tomorrow with a celebratory opening event expected to bring a crowd of 300 people to Parliament. A grassroots festival with humble beginnings, Wellington Pride Festival is proof that the LGBTI community is alive and well in the capital.

The seed was planted just under a year ago when a community member made a passing comment to last year’s Wellington Pride Parade organiser that it would be great to have a Pride festival in the capital. Thinking it was a brilliant idea, that same parade organiser is now Co-Chair of Out Wellington Inc, the organising committee responsible for what is now known as the Wellington Pride Festival. Out Wellington Inc was set up to run Out in the Park in 2008, and last year organised the first parade in the capital.

Out Wellington Co-Chair Adrienne Girling says, “This year we thought ‘we need to have more than just one day, lets have a full week’ and so our organising committee took it upon themselves to organise all three main events, the festival, the parade and Out in the Park.”

With the establishment of the Wellington Pride Festival, Out in the Park as an organisation, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, will not be phased out but is expected to hold its own in a similar way to Auckland’s Big Gay Out which runs within the Auckland Pride Festival.

The fair was originally set up to raise awareness of homosexual law reform and was organised by one of the first men to have a civil union in New Zealand, Des Smith.

Girling says, “It’s definitely our biggest event in the festival.”

The grassroots festival grew from its beginnings as a fleeting idea thanks to the hard work and dedication of a few and has continued to grow thanks to the support of the local LGBTI community. “It is a community festival”, says Girling, “we put a call out to all of our networks made up of queer groups and organisations and said, ‘hey we are going to put on a festival’ and then we asked what kind of interest there would be in it. There was a huge response to that.”

With this being its first year, Wellington Pride receives funding for Out in the Park but no funding for the festival itself.

“The idea for the Pride Festival just sort of emerged over time, we wanted to see first if there was interest from the community so we didn’t put any bids out for funding for the festival itself. We just thought, lets just see what we can do, it’s a community run, volunteer run festival, our funding almost solely goes into Out in the Park.”

The events are organised by individual groups in the community who directly receive any profit that is made. Girling says it was important to the organising committee that these groups weren’t charged registration fees to take part in the festival.

Kicking off with a triathlon, the festival features a diverse lineup of events including a consent craftivism workshop run by Wellington Rape Crisis, a board game night run by InsideOUT and a picnic on the lawns of Parliament. Girling says, “We have so many cool events, that are really really different.

“Whenever I show anyone the programme, the first thing they remark on is the gay tour at Zealandia. It’s one of those things that you just have to turn up to and be delighted and surprised!”

If the overwhelming response to tomorrow night’s opening event (300 people have secured a place at Parliament and at least 50 people are on the waiting list) is anything to go by, this year’s Wellington Pride Festival is sure to be a huge success and no doubt the first of many more. Daily News staff - 4th March 2016

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