The future of Brighton’s Pride event is hanging in the balance amid revelations that the organisation is saddled with over £180,000 of debt owed to 20 different creditors.
The debts have prompted the resignation of two trust members with calls from the gay community for the rest to follow.
The reputation of Pride as a force for tolerance has also been questioned.
The Pride festival began charging entrants for the first time for the 2011 event, so whilst the parade remained free, a fee of up to £17.50 was levied for entrance to the park.
In response to complaints the organisers offered an early bird ticket for East and West Sussex residents, priced at £8.50, and offered reduced-rate fees for children, with under-12s free.
However, many feel that the charges for Pride go against the spirit of the event and hinder its political purpose, whilst providing only those who can afford to pay with the ability to attend.
Sussex Students’ Union LGBTQ society elected representative, Jess Bayliss, said: “My first Pride meant an awful lot to me, it’s the first time I realised how many other people were gay, happy and accepted.
“If there had been tickets for that I wouldn’t have been able to go, because I went in secret and was only 15 so couldn’t afford my own.
“The fee priced out vulnerable people who probably needed community events and efforts the most.”
Despite charging for the event last year, Pride organisers reported that £68,000 was spent in repaying debts accumulated from previous years’ events.
The total 2011 loss was £125,000 which has increased concerns that companies will only want to work with Pride if they can be paid up front.
The implementation of a Pride fee prompted the Sussex LGBTQ group to begin planning an alternative Pride event last year with the aim to keep the traditional values of Pride at heart.
Jess told us: “This is because we felt that not only was Brighton Pride going to unnecessary expenses by enlisting various ‘celebrities’ and companies that we felt detracted from the true political nature of Pride marches and celebrations, but also because the ticketing made the event less inclusive.”
In response to the debt revelations, Jess said: “I am almost pleased to hear that Pride has finally been exposed.
“I hope that a new start this year this will give the grassroots community groups and those with LGBTQ peoples’ interests at heart, the attention of the Brighton and Hove Council.
“That way they can begin a new, equally as fun, but less corporately dominated celebration which reminds us all why we are together.
“LGBTQ people still have things to fight for.”
Brighton’s Pride festival is scheduled to go ahead on 1st September 2012.