3 min

Toronto WorldPride 2014 planning behind schedule

'Everything is really up in the air right now': PT

Credit: Jim Shannon for Flickr creative commons

Just as the storm seems to have settled around Pride Toronto (PT), a hurricane of planning has begun for WorldPride in 2014, which committee members say is already behind schedule.

Newly elected PT board member Mark Smith, who is also a member of the PT WorldPride committee, says planning for the international event is quickly kicking into high gear.

There’s lots of work to be done, he says, and the clock is ticking.

“We are thinking about the economy, tourism and how to partner with other organizations,” he says. “I think we’re behind on our planning, but it’s still doable. If we had started the committee next month, I’d say we would have been in trouble.”

For more than two years PT has been mired in controversy. Now, a new board has been peacefully elected, the annual general meeting ended with smiles and harmony, the financials are no longer in the red, and a trusted community member has been installed as the new executive director. Suddenly, all eyes are on WorldPride 2014.

Smith is dreaming big. He describes a massive citywide event featuring conferences, demonstrations, concerts, gala dinners and late-night parties.

International human rights and the historical importance of the Pride movement will also be prominent. “There are lots of ideas. This will be much bigger than just a street party.

“The first hurdle for us is the marketing hurdle,” he says. “How do we market this event? The first opportunity we have is WorldPride London in July 2012.” WorldPride 2012 stretches over two weeks from June 23 to July 8. Toronto Pride runs from June 24 to July 1.

Right now, Smith says, he is buzzing across the UK on his own dime, meeting with the planners of WorldPride in London. He is also making contacts with bars, restaurants, media and promoters to start getting people talking about WorldPride in Toronto.

“Everything is really up in the air right now,” he says. “We know we’re hosting WorldPride in 2014. We just have to plan what happens from now until then.”

Smith says logistics still need to be worked out, including a logo, theme and marketing outline to properly promote the event. The deadline for this is March.

“Our goal right now is to start building excitement and generating energy here at home, then take it to London and get the world excited about Toronto. I want to ensure we are shining so bright no one can miss us.”

Smith says a realistic budget for WorldPride is between $3 million and $5 million. “But that’s just for the final event. We have years to lead up to that. We have infrastructure, promotion, and I really feel we need to hire staff . . . there is no way a volunteer will be able to handle it.”

PT chair Francisco Alvarez anticipates WorldPride will be about three times the size of Toronto’s normal Pride. “By that I mean the level of programming that we do. I haven’t translated that into an audience number yet. We’re still making decisions around things like that.”

Toronto was chosen in 2009 at the 28th annual conference of InterPride. Toronto’s bid beat out Stockholm, 77 votes to 61.

Mark Singh, who served as chair for PT’s WorldPride committee following Toronto’s successful bid, says he now has “no involvement in Toronto WorldPride whatsoever.”

Singh is currently the president of Fierté Pride Canada and regional director of InterPride, the international association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans organizations.

“I am a member of the board at InterPride, and I receive updates from the board at Pride Toronto,” Singh says. “That’s as much say as I have in WorldPride.”

Rome hosted the first WorldPride in 2000; in 2006, Jerusalem hosted the event.

Toronto WorldPride 2014 will fall on the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, while WorldPride 2012 in London coincides with the 19th annual EuroPride. London WorldPride will be held between two other significant celebrations — the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the summer Olympic Games.

The 2014 WorldPride celebration will be in place of Toronto’s regular Pride Week.

Ted Flett, public relations manager for Visit Britain tourism, says UK tourism is promoting WorldPride to the world as a key event.

PT won’t have realistic crowd estimates until it has met with Tourism Toronto and the City of Toronto and completed a strategic plan, which is due in January.

“Once that’s done we will begin community consultations to ensure [the plan] is what the community wants to stand behind,” says Alvarez. “Then we start talking about partnerships with the city and cultural sector.”

An updated budget will also be completed following the strategic plan, he says.

A Toronto delegation will attend and likely participate in WorldPride London. Alvarez says this could take a number of forms, such as sponsorship, hosting a media event, an artist’s showcase or a pavilion of Canadian Pride organizations.

“We are talking right now about making [the delegation] a wider Canadian presence,” he says, noting that other Canadian Prides will be invited to attend.

So far there are 15 people on the PT WorldPride committee, including four board members and Kevin Beaulieu, the new PT executive director.

The PT WorldPride 2014 committee:

Antoine Elhashem

Brad Keenan

Cee Sando

Chad Simon

Christopher Barry

Francisco Alvarez

Doug Kerr

George Lam

Justin Young

Liz Devine

Luka Amona

Lydia Sebasiampillai

Margaret Ngai

Mark Smith

Martin Kuplens-Ewert