Yesterday, the Our March returned to Auckland and with a degree of diversity that was heart warming. Old, young, trans, bi, lesbian, gay etc – the whole spectrum was represented and also mirrored in the thousands of rainbow flags held aloft by the participants.
There were some protest banners, occasional chanting, frequent bursts of cheering and at the same time a relaxed and happy atmosphere.
The Our March is a very different beast to the Parades of old. Gone are the floats, the music, the overt sexuality, the glitz, and of course the commercialism.
Watching it traverse some of the city’s central streets is a very emotional experience, and for me the best view is from Queen Street looking up towards Albert Park. Seeing Victoria Street full of people and colour and watching it curve around the corner into Bowen Avenue is incredible.
As the participants assembled in Albert Park I had a conversation with a prominent member of our community who observed that this event seemed to consist of mostly queer people and that you couldn’t say that about the old Pride Parades.
I think she’s right. That’s not to say that ‘straight’ participation is a bad thing, but when Auckland Pride says this is a grassroots event, they are correct. It is about and for the Rainbow Communities.
In regards to turn out there have been reports of 7000 people and according to Auckland Pride’s Max Tweedie, independent event crew verified that figure. Having filmed and reported on this event twice, I am a little skeptical of that figure. In my calculations and personal observation it was probably at least half that.
But to be honest the true number doesn’t matter that much. The event was clearly a success in many ways, and I imagine the Our March has now cemented itself into the Pride calendar and that is a good thing.
There is however one aspect that lets the participants down and that is the parade route itself, which follows the same path as the annual graduation celebrations of Auckland University.
A rough calculation on Apple Maps shows that route is approximately one kilometre. However 500m (or basically half of the route) is along Princes Street and Bowen Avenue both of which have virtually no pedestrian traffic on a Saturday afternoon. As an observer, I saw (and filmed) small knots of people along Victoria Street and its intersection with Queen Street. The final blocks of Queen Street had more people but not large numbers, and while some were observing the march, many were just going about their business.
You might think that is immaterial because the March is about participation rather than audience numbers. But then why hold it on Queen Street if that is the case?
Surely the Our March, or any ‘queer’ parade/walk is about visibility and a connection to the wider community, just as much as it is about camaraderie?
Irrespective of the philosophical viewpoints about the old Pride Parades and who should or should not have been in them they brought huge numbers of spectators to the route and guaranteed massive coverage in the media.
In time if the Our March does become a fixture on the Auckland event scene, and if the quoted participation numbers are correct then perhaps more people will come to Queen Street to view it.
I hope so because this is an event that is rooted within our community but one that also needs and deserves to be seen by many more.