Fes­ti­val flies the flag for gay pride

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

Recog­ni­tion for all of Auck­land’s com­mu­ni­ties is what makes this city su­per. That’s what West­mere res­i­dents Ver­ity Ge­orge and Lisa Prager say is at the heart of the Auck­land Pride Fes­ti­val.

The cou­ple were the cre­ators of Auck­land’s orig­i­nal gay, les­bian, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der gala 14 years ago as part of the Hero Fes­ti­val which last stomped the city’s streets in 2001.

The pair are re­turn­ing af­ter more than a decade to di­rect the black-tie event to be held tonight at Q The­atre.

Ms Ge­orge once or­gan­ised the whole fes­ti­val and didn’t hes­i­tate when cur­rent Auck­land Pride co­or­di­na­tor Ju­lian Cook asked if the cou­ple would like to raise the cur­tain on the event once more.

‘‘I’m very eas­ily flat­tered and I think we had both for­got­ten how much work went into it,’’ she says.

The ac­tress and writer will be co-host­ing with Christchurch’s Stu­dent Vol­un­teer Army founder Sam John­son.

It will be an evening of Hol­ly­wood glam­our and hi­lar­ity, she says.

The va­ri­ety show is a ‘‘best of the fest’’ with per­for­mances from the co­me­di­ans, drag queens and other artists who make up this year’s fes­ti­val line-up.

The pair hopes mayor Len Brown will get into the fes­ti­val spirit.

‘‘We’re in­sist­ing that the mayor wears his bear skins and all of his chains – and ap­par­ently he’s a good singer,’’ Ms Prager says. ‘‘I’m sure he’s got a song up his sleeve.’’

The cou­ple have sur­prises of their own promis­ing to un­veil a long-for­got­ten fes­ti­val prop which will be sure to leave au­di­ence mem­bers scratch­ing their heads.

But be­neath the colour and se­quins there are still some se­ri­ous mes­sages to be heard.

A lot may have changed in the last decade but for each gen­er­a­tion of the GLBT com­mu­nity there are strug­gles, Ms Ge­orge says.

‘‘Ev­ery­body goes ‘ oh well you’ve got equal­ity, you’re fine’. But ac­tu­ally it’s still hard – it’s al­ways hard when you come out.’’

The 13-day fes­ti­val pro­motes vig­i­lance and aware­ness about HIV/Aids and youth sui­cide.

‘‘I feel very strongly not just to use this as an event for fri­vol­ity or cel­e­bra­tion but to raise con­scious­ness in the broader com­mu­nity,’’ Ms Prager says.

Host­ing the event with fi­nan­cial sup­port from Auck­land Coun­cil is part and par­cel of what makes Auck­land an in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised city, she says.

‘‘With­out ac­knowl­edg­ing the gay com­mu­nity and its vi­brancy and its im­por­tance you can’t go on to the world stage and say we’ve got a world-class city.’’

The Auck­land Pride Gala will be held tonight at Q The­atre from 8pm.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Stand­ing tall: West­mere’s Gar­net Sta­tion cafe own­ers Lisa Prager, left, and Ver­ity Ge­orge are host­ing the Auck­land Pride Fes­ti­val open­ing gala.

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