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