Virtual Pride | Statement
Following a very difficult 48 hours it is with a heavy heart, after careful consideration that we must cancel Virtual Pride.
Just seven weeks ago we began work on this Pride event, in answer to the Coronavirus outbreak after most live Pride’s had been cancelled around the world. Unlike most other virtual events taking place over Facebook, our 10 hour festival was to be live streamed to our website as a telethon-style broadcast. We were incredibly proud of the hard work we had put in to make this event a highly professional and slick presentation.
It was brought to our attention a few days ago that there were concerns on our website about transparency regarding charity numbers. Once these concerns were raised, Virtual Pride clarified to the person who had emailed us directly. On our original site, our website designer included the charity number for another charity organisation which members of the Virtual Pride team work for. Virtual Pride was never set up as a charity or Community Interest Company (CIC) because our aim was to raise funds via JustGiving and then send to the other Pride’s involved. When recommended to remove the other charity and instead include clear information on the Pride organisations we intended to raise funds for, we did straight away. We were the team organising the original Merton Pride, but learnt three days ago someone has set up their own Merton Pride as a CIC and plans to do their own event. Either way, as always stated clearly, it was always our intention to raise funds for all of the Prides involved and the money was never going to any other organisation.
Still looking to frustrate the production of Virtual Pride, the person emailing us then searched through our team’s personal social media accounts and found that our festival director liked a few tweets about Brexit written by a politician who in the past has spoken against the LGBT+ community. The person then sent this discovery to our sponsors and media partners.
We were privately discussing this issue with a leading LGBT+ campaigner – who has affiliations with a leading LGBT+ publication – and learnt they wanted to drop out of the event because a member of our team has a political opinion about Brexit that is shared by a politician who has other opinions about sexuality. When accused of political bigotry they then took to their personal Twitter account to begin a smear campaign against Virtual Pride. This then led to gossip which was completely misconstrued to imply that the politician was directly involved with the organisation of Virtual Pride. An outrageous and fabricated claim that was then encouraged by this individual, despite knowing this was far from the case.
Following the above, many organisations were ‘advised’ to revoke their support of Virtual Pride and many performers encouraged to step down from the event, in fear that they may lose other avenues of work and financial support. Clearly this campaigner – along with the person who originally emailed us – has an incredible influence over certain people and organisations, who felt the need to step away from Virtual Pride, whether or not they truly wanted to.
Our festival director is not and will never be apologetic for his political persuasion or for supporting Brexit. He remains incredibly passionate about the LGBT+ community and views these as two separate things. Over the past 24 hours he has been labelled by people who should certainly know better and had his name dragged through the mud on social media in order to tarnish this event.
We rhetorically ask the people who started this smear campaign, ‘what were you trying to accomplish with this?’ But the answer has been made clear on your social media accounts; you wanted to derail Virtual Pride because you would rather not have the event if it was organised by someone you don’t approve of. You would in fact happily deprive the community of valuable funds and a platform to help them continue through these unprecedented times. Why are we so unwilling to accept individual thinking when we all believe that everyone should be accepted for who they are? Are LGBT+ people only allowed to believe in a certain political party that must be approved of by a few influential people behind the scenes?
The result of Virtual Pride’s cancellation is staggering. Many LGBT+ performers who have already lost stages and platforms this year have lost yet another festival and the Pride organisations involved – including Norwich Pride and Cumbria Pride who have been incredibly supportive – will not receive any funds which we might have raised. There were thousands of people looking forward to Virtual Pride and now they have lost yet another event in 2020.
Last month someone was organising the UK Online Pride to take place on Facebook. They received criticism and pulled the event just two days before it was due to take place. Now recent history repeats itself.
We feel a small number of members from our community need to seriously consider if this is worth it? Who wins? This #CancelCulture has to stop and yet again another organiser is deemed not good enough. We need to #BeKind and work together and remember what truly matters.
Our team have poured seven long weeks of work into Virtual Pride and whilst we have been accused of doing this for financial gain, we have in reality invested our own money into the event which will now be for nothing.
We were only ever trying to do a good thing. It is hard to fathom how liking political tweets on a personal account can outweigh someone’s undeniable passion for this community. We were trying to offer a platform for everyone to come together and lift spirits in these difficult times. Virtual Pride was created as a direct response to the Coronavirus outbreak and now – during an unprecedented year – we feel that message was sadly lost on people. As the world struggles, wouldn’t it have been nice to enjoy something with positivity?
No matter your gender, sexuality, religion, political persuasion, or race, you would have been welcome to join us at Virtual Pride, without judgment, as we celebrated the LGBT+ community.
We thank everyone who has supported us and stayed with us during a very difficult 48 hours and we have loved working with every performer, speaker and organisation involved.
We are deeply sorry to disappoint the majority of people who were looking forward to this event.
With love from the team at Virtual Pride.
Virtual Pride 2020
Following the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak of 2019/20, many local Pride festivals and events up and down the UK have been cancelled.
With people forced into self-isolation, Virtual Pride offers a FREE 10 hour online festival celebrating Britain’s diverse LGBT+ community.
Virtual Pride Raising essential funds for LGBT+ causes in the UK
An equal share of all money raised during Virtual Pride will be divided between all Pride organisations taking part in Virtual Pride. These include: Bristol Pride (registered charity: 1166817), Cumbria Pride (registered charity: 1167160), Norwich Pride (registered charity: 1184491), and the launch of Merton Pride 2021.