Boris’s officials stepped in to save Pride concert

City Hall officials intervened to ensure this year’s Gay Pride event went ahead despite funding problems, London Assembly members heard today.

Organisers of this year’s event had been given the free use of Trafalgar Square and £100,000 of funding from the Greater London Authority in addition to any sponsorship money they raised to support the event.

However just 10 days before the event, organisers announced they were experiencing a funding shortfall and scaled down their plans.

Today Sir Eddie Lister, Chief of Staff to Mayor Boris Johnson, told a committee of Assembly Members that City Hall had considered downgrading or pulling its funding amid concerns about the event’s viability.

However Sir Eddie said the decision was ultimately made to support the Trafalgar Square aspect of the day, which included live performances by Boy George and R&B singer Deborah Cox, when it became clear a march would still go ahead with or without support.

He told AMs that supporting the Trafalgar Square event had allowed crowds to disperse in a safe and controlled manner, ensuring the safety of those attending.

Sir Eddie said organisers had previously assured City Hall that preparations were going to plan and that officials had only discovered the true situation late in the day. He said the disruption to City Hall’s work programme caused by the election and resulting blackout of non-essential work had played a factor in the late discovery.

AMs were also told the Mayor was “very close” to naming a successful bidder for his five year, £500,000 sponsorship programme announced in October.

Sir Eddie revealed that bids had been received from three organisations, one of which has submitted a 176 document setting out comprehensive plans for the future events.

He suggested the bid evaluation team was very impressed with the quality of one bid in particular, although he said all three were strong bids.

Although Sir Eddie did not name the bid concerned, it is believed to have been submitted by a group supported by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender community.

The funding package will be “tapered” with more money available in the first year to support setting up a new delivery organisation, with City Hall expecting the event to become self-funding by the end of the five-year period.

In response to questions from Committee Chair Len Duvall, Sir Eddie said City Hall was not trying to take over the event which should be funded and supported by the “pink pound” in future years.

He told Committee member Tony Arbour that Pride was an important political statement for the LGBT community and that hosting successful Pride events was vital both for the capital’s reputation and economy.