Pink Loerie festival hits a snag

25 May 2019 - 11:35 By Shain Germaner
A lone anti-gay demonstrator standing in front of a church, is mocked by Betty Bangles, during a pride parade through the small town of Knysna. Thousands attended the parade, which was a culmination of The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival Knynsa, billed as an annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) culture and identity.
A lone anti-gay demonstrator standing in front of a church, is mocked by Betty Bangles, during a pride parade through the small town of Knysna. Thousands attended the parade, which was a culmination of The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival Knynsa, billed as an annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) culture and identity.
Image: Alon Skuy

The annual Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival may no longer be annual, after an announcement that the 2019 edition is set to be postponed, seemingly due to issues with sponsorship.

The festival, which has become an LGBTQ institution since it began almost two decades ago, was initially set down for 30 May, but has been abruptly cancelled.

According to a press statement from the Festival’s organiser, John O’Neil, the festival administration has teamed up with Gerrit Prinsloo Productions “to restructure the festival going forward with the promise to hold a bigger and better event next year.

“After much deliberation with various parties, we have come to the conclusion that we will postpone this year’s festival and return in 2020 with a new look and fresh ideas,” said O’Neil.

He said the decision is also aimed at providing more time to secure sponsors “to ensure the financial viability and sustainability of the event”.

“We apologise to our supporters for any inconvenience and would like to thank the residents of Knysna as well as all the loyal supporters over the past 18 years,” said O’Neil. “We will be back next year and our support for Loeriehof Retirement Home, Knysna Animal Welfare, Paula Whitney Crèche and Vermont Retirement Village will continue as always,” he added.

Speaking to Times Select, O’Neil said the sponsorship issues had emerged due to the current harsh economic climate, and it has become increasingly difficult to find sponsors who support festivals, particularly those set to serve the LGBTQ community.

“They (the local Knysna and provincial tourism bodies) were approached but declined to assist after years of supporting the festival. Visit Knysna replaced Knysna Tourism as the local destination marketing body,” he told Times Select.

When asked if there was concern that the cancellation of the festival could affect local tourism revenue for the year, O’Neil said: “Yes, as the whole idea behind the Festival is to entice tourists to the town during the slow month of May and June to reinvigorate the local economy.”

Visit Knysna spokesperson, Russel Brueton, said the institution “supports all events that create economic opportunities and jobs for locals and businesses. We are sure the event organisers have carefully considered the decision and we are extremely happy to hear that it will return next year, bigger and better.”

Regarding its involvement with the festival, Brueton said: “Visit Knysna has met with the organiser before. In the end, the decision to postpone is completely their own. Postponement of any event does have an impact. However, it is important that the event is sustainable so that it continues year-after-year, and grows. That is why Visit Knysna is happy that the organiser intends to bring the event back next year with new ideas. We wish him well.”

Executive mayor of Knysna, Mark Willemse said he was “saddened to learn that the Pink Loerie Festival will be unable to go ahead this year due to financial constraints.”

“I am pleased, however, to see that efforts are being made to ensure that this very popular festival goes ahead next year. Knysna Municipality will continue to support this event and the many others that provide a continuous source of economic upliftment of our town,” he added.

As part of the press release, O’Neil has called for individuals or businesses in Knysna that would like to serve on the organising committee to please contact office@prinkloerie.co.za. To stay in touch with any developments and news, visit www.facebook.com/pinkloerie or www.pinkloerie.co.za


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