Joburg Pride is set to “come of age” on Saturday 6 October 2007 when the annual event celebrates its 18th anniversary. According to the organisers, the Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company, participants can look forward to a day of smoothly organised celebration and commemoration of South Africa’s constitutional freedoms.

It all takes place at Zoo Lake once again, and may, on the surface at least, seem rather similar to previous events. So what exactly makes this year’s outing “a new kind of pride?” Perhaps one of the most important elements is the attempt to professionalise the event through a new set of organisers, many of whom are experts in their field, and who aim to steer away from the chaos of the past.

Tanya Harford, well-known for putting on the massive annual Pick n Pay 94.7 Cycle Challenge, among other significant events, is heading up logistics on the day of the parade. She is excited by the support given to organisers by the City of Joburg and other role players, explaining that “this year we can expect to have a truly cohesive event, which lays the foundation to ensure that Joburg Pride becomes one of the city’s leading annual events.”

Tracey Sandilands, Chair of Joburg Pride, also adds that, “this year we are doing it by the community and for the community. We are putting on numerous community events and providing transport for people from townships who may have problems getting to the parade.”

With regard to the somewhat tainted reputation of Pride thanks to past controversies, Sandilands admits that this was something of a challenge. “We have struggled with sponsorship because of the legacy of the past. We’ve had to overcome the perceptions of previous Prides.”

This year sees Joburg Pride being backed by the City of Joburg, alcohol brand Flex Bender and Dutch funding NGO, Hivos. The Rosebank Business community has also offered a great deal of support to the event. “We did briefly consider moving the Parade to a more accessible area, but Rosebank and Zoo Lake remained the most viable locations because of logistics and, of course, safety,” says Sandilands, hinting at the 2005 incident in which a participant in the CBD parade was struck by a brick thrown from a building.

Among the biggest challenges facing the organisers this year she includes the fact that starting a new organisation wasn’t easy. “The logistics of creating the Section 21 not-for-profit organisation and its board took considerable time, which could gave been used for planning.” She also acknowledges that the journey hasn’t been an easy one for the board, “The board members are all volunteers and everyone has jobs in their own capacity. They’ve put in a huge amount of effort and time with no compensation.”

Nevertheless, Sandilands is proud of what has been achieved in setting up a hopefully sustainable organisation, and notes that the community has welcomed the idea of starting afresh with new organisers: “The overall response to a new form of pride as been fantastic!”

The Parade

The customary colourful parade is scheduled to start at 11am from Zoo Lake Sports Club. Chart-topping electronica band Flash Republic will perform live on stage from 10am, officially kicking off the parade at the end of their set. A minute’s silence will be observed to mark the recent brutal murder of two lesbians in Meadowlands, as well as acknowledging all victims of hate-crimes.

The parade, with over 16 floats confirmed at the time of going to press and more expected to register, will make its way through the streets of Rosebank. For the first time, soft-drink and water points will be provided for marchers, so bring your children and pets to join in the fun. The parade will take a circular route, returning to Zoo Lake Sports Club at around 1pm, when the celebration is set to continue.

“We hope that Pride is not perceived as being exclusive to lesbians and gays,” says Sandilands. “We welcome everyone who believes in a culture of equal rights and personal freedom to take part or to cheer on the marchers and enjoy the fun and spectacle of the day. Bring the family and your friends,” she urges.

A number of top entertainers, including up-and-coming band Running With Scissors, hot new songstress Lira, Afrikaans Idols runner-up Willem Botha, R&B star Tumi and legendary DJ Stuart Hillary have confirmed that they will be performing live at the Joburg Pride “Party in the Park”. More performers will be announced closer to the event date. Entry to the day’s events is free of charge.

There will be plenty of food stalls as well as bars to cater for hungry and thirsty revellers. Community organisations will also be present to answer questions about their activities – and expect to see the much-anticipated “Drag-Race.”

A children’s area with a jumping castle will be provided to entertain the younger Pride-participants. “Gays and lesbians are part of our social fabric; it’s about time that we acknowledge that many of us have children and extended families who should also be welcomed at Pride,” said Sandilands.

The event will end at 5pm and revellers are urged to leave the park by 6pm and head home to prepare for other night-time events held around the city, including the much-hyped Fireman’s Ball. “In order for us to continue to use the fantastic Zoo Lake venue, we must respect the local residents,” explains Harford. There will also be Pride after-parties at Legends in Pretoria, Simply Blue and Ramp Divas.

Pride Week

The 2007 Joburg Pride celebrations officially kick off on Thursday 27 September with a charity screening of the comedy Another Gay Movie at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank. The R150 tickets will go towards funding Pride and guests will be treated to drinks and snacks. For information on attending this exclusive event, through which you can play a part in supporting Pride, call 082 567 8894 (during office hours only).

The evening will also see the invitation-only launch of Ster Kinekor’s Pride Film Festival, a stand-alone gay and lesbian film festival held during the Pride festivities.

A number of events will also take place across Gauteng in the week preceding the parade. Clubs and entertainment venues in Joburg and Pretoria, such as Sandton’s Swanky, will be hosting parties, expected to draw significant crowds, while community organisations will be presenting seminars on more serious topics at Constitution Hill.

Look out for the Joburg Pride Festival Guide, which will be available at selected venues around the city, or visit www.joburgpride.org in the coming weeks to view the ever-growing list of events scheduled for the week preceding the Pride Parade.

The Joburg Pride Festival Week launches on Thursday 27 September and will conclude on Saturday 6 October with the Parade and ‘Party in the Park’ at Zoo Lake Sports Club. For more information on Joburg Pride 2007, visit the official website at www.joburgpride.org.

Luiz DeBarros

Luiz is a member of the Joburg Pride Board

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