Recently, we announced that we have decided to cancel this year’s Baltic Pride in Tallinn. Understandably, this has caused sadness, disappointment, even confusion in the community. We ourselves feel the same way.
As the state of emergency and the spread of the coronavirus will not end any time soon, our plans for the future are not much clearer, either. However, as organizers of the festival, we do wish to explain our decision. We would also like to share some good news.
First, the bad
We said that Baltic Pride has been cancelled this year due to health risks, the financial situation, and an uncertain future.
By health risks we mean that it might be a while until public gatherings are once again safe for participants and their loved ones, and it is not known when they will be allowed again at all. In addition, we might not be able to fulfill all hygiene and safety requirements, which were imposed on public events before the state of emergency and may be imposed again in the future, as the festival program included large as well as small, indoor and outdoor events.
The financial situation is also complicated. The budget for a full Baltic Pride festival, which would allow to hold a conference, a concert, a march, film screenings and workshops, invite foreign guests, produce merchandise, and spread the word, would reach tens of thousands of euros. In 2017, Baltic Pride cost over 60 000 euros to organize (in comparison, the main budget of the Estonian LGBT Association for an entire year is about 100 000 euros, which includes four fields of activity and year-round services).
Organizing Baltic Pride this year, we were entirely dependent on sponsors and donors. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to get sponsors for LGBT+ events as it is, due to our somewhat hostile political and social climate. The financial crisis that has already begun and will last a while, however, makes it almost impossible. At a time when people are losing their jobs, companies are unable to pay salaries, and everyone is worrying about their future, it is not easy to find sponsors. In a sense, it wouldn’t even be justified.
How do you organize a big event when you are not sure it will even take place? The team at the Estonian LGBT Association is small and only some of us are actively involved in organizing Baltic Pride. The main organizing work is done by four people. Shortly before the festival and during it we are supported by a group of volunteers. Organizing a festival is a full-time job and the closer we get to the festival dates, the more overtime hours we do. This work is important to us and we know the result of it is important to you, but we would feel utterly sad and disappointed, if all this work would turn out to have been for nothing. In light of current developments, there is no way Pride could have taken place in June as initially planned. There is also no guarantee for July or August. Even if the state of emergency will have ended by then, our previous way of life will not have recovered yet. Large gatherings would still cause worry, travelling would be hindered, the economy frail.
Why not postpone the Estonian festival till next year? In this scenario the future is still uncertain, although more hopeful. However, the economy does not recover that fast, potential sponsors will still be facing hardships. And it would also not be possible for our team. The work of the Estonian LGBT Association is project-based and already this year we are starting new projects and taking on new responsibilities, which will only increase our work load next year and keep us busy. As organizing Baltic Pride is a full-time job lasting for months, there would not be any space for it next year. In addition, our friends in Latvia have already begun preparations for 2021 as next year Baltic Pride will take place in Riga.
Do we have anything positive to say?
Even though Baltic Pride will not take place as planned, we still wish to create and also experience the feeling of community that Pride offers. One option is to organize a smaller, local Pride once the situation has stabilized. A smaller event can be prepared in a shorter time and we have also already been offered help by other community activists and organizers.
As Pride is not just an event, but also a great way to share our message, we are looking for ways in which we could still draw attention to the topics important to the community and to give people a voice.
Since bringing all these ideas to life depends on future circumstances, we cannot make any promises, but we are trying.
And we are not the only ones. In Europe and the whole world, hundreds of Prides have been postponed or cancelled. This is why the online Global Pride has been created. We will find out soon how exactly it is going to look, but we do know that on 27 June, around the time of the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots that gave birth to the entire Pride movement, Prides across the world will take part in the shared live event with speeches, music, and shows of support, to express solidarity and to connect the community. You can follow Global Pride news on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We will definitely let you know how Baltic Pride will be a part of this.
Thank you for caring about Baltic Pride and about coming together as a community, and for understanding difficult decisions in hard times.