Over the past few years St. John’s Pride has grown tremendously! Just a few short years ago there were only a handful of events and a “parade” which was really a small march (usually down the sidewalk) and it is now a fill-Duckworth-street with thousands of LGBT+ people and allies kind of affair. However the pride board has a history of being tainted as a group of out of touch individuals that cause stinks over nothing. One of the biggest challenges of the Pride board has been to build a relationship with the community itself and to have organizations and individuals take them seriously as a legitimate professional Pride Festival organization…and many years they have failed. In 2014 I was on the Pride board as a director at large, with a group of people who wanted to professionalize the festival and bring it to the next level. That year was filled with resignations, mind boggling internal fighting as well as one of the highest levels of stress I have ever experienced in a single year. Despite that, we rebranded and laid the framework for future festivals to grow and most of us decided to move on to things in our private lives once the year was over. I have not been involved in St. John’s Pride since 2014 but this is my opinion as someone who is a member of the community, a young professional and someone who has seen how the organization works from the inside.
I want to start by reminding everyone that the Pride Board is not a government. Many people treat this group of individuals as if they were the elected Presidential Council of the Queerdom of Avalon…they’re not, they are a group of people who are elected by the membership of St. John’s Pride Inc. to organize a Pride FESTIVAL. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in!
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The BIG GREEN DOLLAR! (or, well gold/brass? In our case)
Large scale festivals require MONEY and lots of it! There are so many little costs and copious amounts of red tape; it would make your head spin. A festival that is catering to thousands of people is going to need money to pull off anything worth looking at. The board seems to have really strayed away from getting corporate sponsors in the past year or two. In fact, the board sent a very passive letter to local businesses around town which suggested they contribute if they could…anyone who has been in sales will tell you that you’re just wasting your time and paper with this approach.
They need to have a sponsorship package done up along with a media kit to show businesses how partnering with the organization will benefit them. It’s nice to think that companies will just want to help out of the goodness of their hearts…however when it comes to money, it’s unfortunately not like that. They often have to take the request higher up and show how this investment of money will benefit the business along with the people in the LGBT+ community and you probably have a bunch of other organizations from across the province, region or even country asking for the same piece of a small pot of money they set aside for reinvesting into the community.
I read somewhere that this year’s board was trying to keep the sponsors local and smaller businesses. I get where this is coming from…local supporting local etc… however it is unfair and unrealistic to expect the small businesses in the province to solely flip the bill for the festival. You will get great support from local companies because they are the ones who really care about ventures such as this, want to see it succeed and will donate items, services and some of the money you need. The problem is, the economy is absolute crap right now and many small businesses are finding it hard to keep a float as it is, so it’s not fair to expect the financial burden to fall on them. There are also many grants available that the festival should be taking advantage of.
Another type of sponsor that the board should be focusing heavily on is the media sponsors! The word needs to get out! People need to know what you’re doing and when.
The Pride group should also be partnering with other businesses and organizations that are putting off events.
Okay, I have a few things to say about the parade, let me start with; a parade of approximately 4 thousand people should NOT have oncoming traffic to worry about!
COME ON! The parade has grown way past the point where it is acceptable to have it confined to one lane and have oncoming traffic at any part of the parade. It is at the point where we should have the streets actually closed like they do for the Christmas parade and other events downtown. More and more people come out to watch and every year the participants grow by the thousands, so it is time to take the parade seriously, close the roads, and bag the meters! For the past two years I have been with The Outport Magazine’s walking float and it was dangerous…both years there were cars trying to pull into the parade route and at points there was oncoming traffic…UNACCEPTABLE! We deserve better and it needs to be safer.
When it comes to organizing the parade there needs to be more MUSIC! The pride board should encourage groups to have music and spread them out along the route. **You can rent battery operated speakers from Long & McQuade for 8 bucks a week.**
There should be some sort of guide to suggest what people can do for floats and music. There has been a huge increase in organizations in the parade this year and I believe they would go from walking groups to some form of float with some guidance.
In The Meetings
The meetings tend to be a chaotic mess. The new board needs to establish a structure to their meetings and decision making to make it effective. Anyone who has been on a volunteer board knows that it can be tough and there are many people from different viewpoints and you’re not always going to get along. The key to this is to make it effective and still get things done without the board imploding EVERY YEAR.
In my opinion, this is what they need:
An agenda for every meeting
These agendas need to be agreed upon before the meeting starts and any additions need to happen in the beginning. When the agenda topics are read aloud before the meeting starts, everyone has an opportunity to add to it then the agenda is closed and they stick to that agenda.
A chairperson for meetings
This person keeps order and makes sure the discussion sticks to the agreed upon agenda.
These are KEY. Not everyone wants to or needs to be involved in every aspect of all the planning. There needs to be the formation of a few subcommittees which will include members of the board who want to work on that aspect of the festival and experts to help with whatever the topic of that committee is.
Also the committees need to have a level of autonomy and decision making power granted to them by the board. These could include a budget and possibly bookings or other decisions that need to be streamlined. When a subcommittee makes a decision allowed within their rights and restrictions, then it’s fine because the board voted on the powers and restrictions when the committees were formed.
Public Relations Person
The organization needs one or two “public faces” who are well spoken and can speak to the media when things (good or bad) are happening. In a great controversy silence can mean destruction because the media and public can control the narrative of the situation.
This is also going to be key for any new board. The image of Pride was severely damaged this year and is viewed as extremely polarizing. The organization needs a fresh start with new branding and image to put forward. In my opinion they need to change up the logo which has what looks like comic sans and is oddly similarly looking to a very popular a clothing brand’s logo. Also the website needs a MAJOR overhaul so information can be found easily.
It’s time that St. John’s Pride INC. rebuilds its relationship with the LGBT+ community at large. There needs to be outreach to all sectors of the community. When the board is looking to ban/restrict or “suggest a ban” for a group from participating they NEED to have their communications in order to explain why. They also should do outreach and hold focus groups along with an official vote before action is taken for such drastic matters.
St. John’s Pride Inc’s 2016 board of directors ALL resigned and the organization is looking for a whole new slate of people to be involved. At the time of publication, there were only 3 candidates put forward for 9 positions.
If you think you can make a change and help bring St. John’s Pride to the next level, nominate yourself.