Pride after-parties are a contentious issue. Every year there is the debate; should there be an official Pride event or should the clubs do their own thing? This year’s Fireman’s Ball – set for Saturday 6 October – may not be “official,” but it certainly will be big.

With considerable backing from national youth radio station 5FM, the event promises to be quite a bash according to the promoters – the team who have put on the successful monthly Qc parties over the last year.

When asked what we can expect from the event, Pieter Rossouw from Qc says, “We’ll have the hottest boys sliding down slippery poles, and three dance-floors with the sizzling 5FM DJs Roger Goode, Nicole Fox, Elana Afrika, Mlu, Erica Elle and Christina Knight teaming up with DJ icons Groove Element, Stuart H, Rude Rory, Kevin Grenfell, Amanda and Small Paul.”

Interestingly, the Fireman’s Ball has ambitions just beyond Joburg Pride: There will be a sister event in Cape Town on October 13, which Rossouw says will ensure that the Fireman’s Ball will become one of “the biggest gay circuit events of the year.” He adds that the aim is to create an annual event that will unite South Africa’s gay society and make this a sought after destination on the world gay pride circuit.”

Stand-alone official Pride after-parties haven’t always been successful in Joburg. In the last few years there have been some significant failures. Consider the freezing cold disaster that was the Jimmy Somerville bash in Newtown in 2004. Every year, Pride punters have to decide whether to brave a possibly spectacular but unknown event, which will often charge a small fortune, or stick to their reliable favourite club hangout’s Pride party.

Rossouw insists that the failures of previous large after-parties don’t concern him. “The good ones did work. The Old Fort party in ‘96, the Mother event in ‘97 and the Electric Workshop in ‘98 all drew masses of people. The gay public is discerning and can spot a fake a mile away; they respect and support the quality that is synonymous with Qc.”

He says that the scale of the Fireman’s Ball production will also make the event different from previous Pride events promising that, “There will be incredible décor, production elements and amazing special effects ensuring that this Ball is a visually stimulating experience of international standard.”

“Pride will always be relevant as long as it keeps up with the times…”

Rossouw adds that 5FM coming on board as a media partner will make all the difference – helping to ensure a good turnout: “The partnership means massive radio advertising for the party and helped convince our other headline sponsor Flexbender to come onboard with the biggest sponsorship ever for a gay event. To have 5FM as an official media partner is a privilege reserved only for a few events a year and adds massive credibility and stature,” he says.

In addition to the Fireman’s Ball, a number of other clubs around Gauteng – including Legends in Pretoria and Simply Blue in Braamfontein – will also be holding Pride after-parties. Despite a temporary closure of Ramp Divas in Boksburg on the weekend due to a fire safety violation, the club’s owner says that it will indeed be open for business for its own Pride bash.

It is worth noting that The Fireman’s Ball, or any other after-party this year, is not officially endorsed or organised by the Pride Board (which incidentally includes two party promoters on it – Bruce Walker from Qc and Fulvio De Stefanis from Legends).

It was something which the Pride organisers say they chose to do on principle, regardless of the promoters involved. This may come as a surprise to some internationally, where official after-parties are a significant means of raising funds for the actual Pride event.

According to Tracy Sandilands, Chair of the 2007 Joburg Pride “Our intention was to re-build the foundations of Pride this year. So that meant focusing on the core of what the event is about, namely the Parade and the concert in the park. We, as a young board, also didn’t want to get bogged down in the politics of the clubbing world. This doesn’t mean that Joburg Pride won’t ever be involved in official after-parties, but that will be up to future Pride boards.”

Rossouw see this as a missed opportunity for the Pride Board, but reiterates the importance of supporting Pride as a whole: “Pride will always be relevant as long as it keeps up with the times, does not operate in a vacuum and is accountable to the gay community. The laws may have changed but it will still take a lot of time for opinions and attitudes to evolve,” he says.

And while that is (hopefully) in the process of taking place, many of us will be blissfully throwing our cares away on the dance-floors of Pride after-parties around Gauteng.

For more information on the Fireman’s Ball visit: www.queercity.co.za.

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