Belfast Pride and Economics! Originally, we had Pride Day with a march to show people that we are part of their community and that we had a right to exist. At this point we were fighting for our lives; abuse, both physical and mental, was normal, and murder occurred and was usually brushed under the legal table as justified due to overtures or something similar. (Portsmouth Defence)
And again, marches started in large cities like New York and London, and like a spider’s web slowly the marches spread into other cities and links were formed.
In the background to these marches were the fights in court to get us legal recognition and protection (e.g., Jeffrey Dudgeon, MBE).
…’Try to will yourself into – or out of – loving someone, try to will someone into loving you, and you collide with the fundamental fact that we do not choose whom we love.’ …James Baldwin on Love, the illusion of Choice and the Paradox of Freedom
Time has passed and so the Pride March has become Pride Month, with a lot of regions or cities now holding the Pride Parade which is almost like a Lord Mayor’s Float Parade!
With a parade comes flamboyance, but why? To quote i-d-vice.com in their article the significance of men’s fashion at pride’:
…Queer men have always worn outlandish clothing within the safety of their own spaces but Pride is different; it’s an occasion which allows you to dress however you want, in broad daylight, in the centre of the city. Fashion at Pride is a way of being defiantly visible, satirising the straight world, and experimenting with gender….
However, this last year during the covid lockdown we have all seen how shallow the acceptance has been, with an increase in LGBTQ+ attacks, with the homeless of LGBTQ+ increasing and with some countries even reversing (or seeking to reverse) the laws which were fought for to give the LGBTQ+ community acceptance and protection.
I love Belfast Pride, having been one of those few souls who marched on the very first one in 1991 (all 200 of us), and walked past the various vociferous groups protesting us being there and alive.
That first Pride in Belfast was a small affair, but so significant as it allowed the Belfast population going about their normal daily tasks, to see that we were just like them from one end of the spectrum to another, with very flamboyant characters to extremely conservative ones – and that just as other groups have marched for centuries in the belief of their right to exist, so were we.
Today, as I have mentioned above, the Pride Day Parade is a large affair in Belfast, with conservative numbers for those taking part being (55000) and with watchers at least double that. We have support groups from Trade Unions, the PSNI, local councils, student groups to name but a few. The detractors have gone down in number, and indeed the local papers generally write in a positive way about the parade.
I welcome this change, but again I caution everyone to remember our roots, there are still those who would seek to have us put back in the closet.
The one thing that is not often mentioned about Gay Pride Parades is the economic benefit that regions, towns, or cities get from them. I come from a background of finance, and I am also a local community journalist for our community, so I was extremely interested to see if anyone knew what economic benefits were brought into Belfast specifically and for Northern Ireland in general.
There is little available documentation regarding this area, but one that I have read with interest is the Greater London Authority Mayoral Decision for funding for Pride in London for the period 2018-2022. I would like to share an extract from it: –
…During the past five years, Pride in London has continued to see growth and improved community engagement. It is the UK’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) event and parade that typically attracts an annual attendance of up to a million people into central London. Independent audience survey research in 2016 (the most recent data set) showed that additional spend in the local economy from people attending Pride was approximately £26.3m…
Now obviously Belfast figures as I have stated above are nowhere near 1 million (55000 approx.), however, if you conservatively look at the projected spend figures then I would suggest that Belfast economically benefits to the tune of
|Spend per Head
|Estimated Policing Cost
|Estimated Cleaning Up Costs
|Estimated Net Benefit
Now the statistics for Northern Ireland are a lot more obscure as the Northern Ireland Tourist Board does not seem to track increased figures for the period of Pride Month, and in particular Belfast Pride (FOI Request reply to 3 questions on Belfast Pride and in general N Ireland Pride Festivals dated 25 Jun 2018), but I believe that economically, the events help attract tourist income, stimulate employment, encourage spending, and contribute to public infrastructure development; and in so doing events prove the opportunity to revitalise communities and foster economic development.
Also, the rural pride events can help members of the LGBTQ+ community to feel supported and accepted by creating visibility about different sexual orientations.
In the last week, we have seen reference to 1991 A Belfast Pride to be remembered! It is important to realise that Belfast Pride is both a celebration of life and who we are, but also a political statement to show we are here, that we will not be going back and that we will continue to fight for our rights in society.
- Wikipedia – LGBT stereotypes
- Fermanagh Herald – ‘Pride festival game-changer, but keep politics out’
- scene magazine – THE COST OF KEEPING PRIDE SAFE FOR EVERYONE
- University of Minnesota – Community festivals—Big benefits, but risks, too
- University of Massachusetts Amherst – Together we will go our way: The development of
- Belfast Pride