Campaigns LGBTQIAP+ Scotland

Unite was right to pull out of Pride Glasgow because of its ‘commercialisation’

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On 16 August, Unite the union issued a statement on why it “is not taking part in Pride Glasgow“. The statement came just 24 hours before the event, held on 17 August. As reported by the BBC, Unite’s Scottish LGBT+ committee said it did not agree with charging organisations to take part in the demonstration.

In the statement, Unite Scotland said “In recent years we have seen the once great community event become steadily more commercial”. And in a nutshell, I agree with Unite.

Pride Glasgow has become “steadily more commercial”

I think this is a principled stance from Unite and their actions are perfectly justified. I’m sure it must have been a difficult decision for the trade union to make but I hope it goes on to instil some change. As I have written previously, I feel pride needs to go back to its inclusive and community roots. By enforcing charges to participate, Pride Glasgow is excluding smaller commercial business and community groups from taking part.

In 2018 and 2019, Glasgow Pride charged organisations up to £420 to be in the pride procession – £600 if you had a float. Pride was intended to be a protest and a celebration of diversity – not a parade for those organisations who can afford a slot.

Unite also points to the “disaster” that was Pride Glasgow 2018 – where issues with tickets left concert goers “queuing for hours”. The ramifications from the 2018 event resulted in former chief executive Alastair Smith to step down. But this could be ‘peak commercialisation’ as Pride Glasgow take on board the thoughts of Unite – we can all live in hope.

“rainbow branding to enhance customer reach”

Unite took aim at organisations who were slapping a rainbow flag on their logo during pride too. Most noteworthy, it criticised commercial organisations for using “rainbow branding to enhance customer reach”. And again, Unite is right. The trade union also questioned what the organisations do to support the LGBTQIAP+ community once pride season is over. And in many cases, I believe that to be very little.

On commercial organisations superficial participation in Prides, Unite said

Once Pride season is over, there is no wider benefit to the LGBT community, whose voices are often lost in the chatter.

And in reference to Pride event organisations across the UK, the trade union criticised them by saying:

We hear little to no information about what is happening in our own communities, about rising intolerance and hate crime and about the violence being perpetrated against the LGBT+ citizens of our country. When people are abused and beaten for being themselves the response from Prides is deafening in its silence. The politics has been driven from pride by over commercialisation and greed of those involved in making it ever more commercial for financial gain.

Unite is clearly not taking any prisoners on this matter. And I commend them for speaking so frankly against rainbow capitalism.

Just one of the many examples of cashing in on the pink pound was Co-op Funeral Care. The company opted for a rainbow hearse float – complete with a rainbow coffin.

Yes, you read that correctly:

Pride Glasgow’s defence

As reported by the BBC, chairperson of Pride Glasgow, Chris Tait, said:

We think of sponsorship as an opportunity – an opportunity to help educate organisations and businesses about the Pride movement and connect them with the very community they are trying to engage, face-to-face. We know diversity is high on everyone’s agenda and we’re trying to help those organisations make their contributions meaningful and not just lip service to what they should be doing to tick a box.

Tait went on to say:

We’ve said it many times in the last few months and we’ll say it again – the march is our main focus.

Yes, that is the same march that costs up to £600 to be part of. I would also argue that managing diversity is not high in a private enterprise’s agenda. Ensuring profits are high is always at the top. But as Tait correctly identifies, I feel diversity is seen as a tick box exercise.

The hope for change

I hope this can start to be a change in Pride Glasgow. It has been the second consecutive year the event has come under similar criticism. Earlier in the summer 2019, a free community event Mardi Gla took place. The organisation aims to take back the pride march “by the people for the people”. Unfortunately this event did not go ahead in its full form. Mardi Gla’s plans to hold a street party was deemed “too great” a challenge by senior members of the committee. The announcement to downsize the event came with just one months notice.

But if events like Mardi Gla spring up successfully in cities across the UK – then perhaps we can ‘take pride back’.

We should all resist the commercialisation of our pride events. We should all resist rainbow capitalism. And we should all resist turning our activism into a money maker.

I will leave my concluding line to these wise words from unite the union:

We believe that Pride is a celebration make no mistake but first and foremost Pride is a Protest!

Featured image via: WikiMedia

By Brian Finlay
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