Readers of Fridae will recall that the Hong Kong Pride Parade organising committee announced earlier this year that it would not mount a Pride Parade in the city in 2010. For various reasons, the committee decided to take a break and concentrate on running a really bumper Pride Parade in Hong Kong in late 2011. Though this all became apparent too late in the day for anyone else to pick up the baton and mount a parade, or to do very much else in its place, rather than let the annual celebration of gay life in Hong Kong pass it by completely this year, the community got together and decided to do something different. It was to be billed as “Out in the Open, a festival of fun and diversity”, and instead of in the polluted streets of Hong Kong island, this party was going to be on the beach. To be precise, the gay beach at Middle Bay where the best and the most bronzed of Hong Kong’s bodies soak up the sun with as little between the its rays and their skin as can they can get away with.
All photos courtesy of Out in the Open 2010.
For more photos, visit their Facebook page.
As soon as the idea emerged, though it was to almost universal acclaim here, it hit snags. In Hong Kong, beaches are ruled over by the stern bureaucrats in the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and its lifeguards and inspectors, and when the Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (the TCJM, which took on leadership for the event) approached them for permission it soon became apparent that they weren’t about to allow any party, gay or straight, to take place on a public beach until the swimming season was over on 1 November (that’s when everyone in Hong Kong thinks it starts to get cold, eg below 25 degrees C!). The party could carry on in the Bauhinia Club next to the beach, but that had a public licence and so had to stay open to all. There wasn’t, by then, any time left, so, despite this, the organisers decided to go ahead, but felt it wasn’t possible to start a PR blitz to attract people from far afield for fear of bringing a posse of beach inspectors down on the scene. So news had to leak out by word of mouth and in the community’s intra PR mechanisms.
Then came super Typhoon Megi, which blasted the northern Philippines and headed out over the South China Sea, seemingly straight at Hong Kong, scheduled to land, so said the Observatory, on the 24 October, the day fixed for “Out in the Open”. The organising committee took the sensible course and postponed the event, only to see Typhoon Megi capriciously meander off towards Fujian and the cancelled day turn into one of bright sunshine and balmy breezes. Such is Hong Kong’s climate. Chagrined, the committee plumped for the next available day before it was deemed to be about to get so cold that no one would come. By 14 November, it was thought, the temperature would be dropping to a frightening 18 degrees C and furs would be appearing on HK’s streets. So the 7th it had to be.
This time the weather did not disappoint, and on the day blazing sunshine was scorching Middle Bay as the party took off. It went on for over ten hours, from 2 pm to nearly 11 at night, and over the day something like 300 to 400 revellers were bussed in from nearby Repulse Bay by minibus shuttle to party in the Bauhinia Club and on the beach below. The day was gorgeous; bright sunshine and a clear blue sea with the backdrop of Hong Kong Island across the bay. Exactly how many girls and boys and the undetermined made it there that day no one had the inclination to count, especially as the day’s festivities began to take their toll of even the most stalwart of the organisers. Music was one of the hallmarks of the event, spun by three of Hong Kong’s top and award-winning DJs: DJ Angus Wong, DJ BLing (Brian Leung, of Gaystation.hk and RTHK’s We Are Family) and DJ9 (Hong Kong’s top female DJ).
Down on the beach, boys battled girls in a tug of war provided by Abby Lee and Betty Grisoni of Les Peches (Betty swathed in rope like the Laocoon was one of the sights of the day), the boys only just managing to salve their pride by a hard-fought win. Up at the Bauhinia Club, impresario Eric Herrera of Fruits in Suits presided over the festivities, the guiding spirit, in fact, of the whole day. A (free!) lottery for a huge number of bags of goodies, gift tokens provided by multiple sponsors and a set of Norm Yip’s Asian Male (both 1 AM and 2 AM) collections was accompanied by a ‘guess the number of condoms and red ribbons’ game run by some volunteers from AIDS Concern. Kevin Burns of NGO Community Business took a stand to help inform the community about their LGBT business diversity programme and the Interbank LGBT Forum was there en masse to take a whole corner of the bar and turn it into a banker’s paradise. Barry Lee of Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, Billy Leung of Amnesty International, Anshuman Das (AD), the TCJM’s webmaster, and Michael Lam of QSA ran a team of volunteers manning stalls and shepherding party-goers along the bus route.
The party cost no one a cent, save for the food and drink they bought, as it was all paid for by the TCJM quiz night over which Quiz Master Richard Frost had presided at Drop bar back on 29 September. This event saw sixty quiz victims paying HK$200 (US$26) a head for the privilege of humiliating themselves by showing how little about Hong Kong they really knew. With the subsidy from the night’s booze intake that Drop Manager Richard Smith very generously provided, they raised HK$14,000 (S$1,800) in the evening, thus avoiding anyone to have to pay for entry or bus fare at the “Out in the Open” event and so enabling as wide a section of the community to attend as possible. The quiz was so successful (Richard Frost came to Hong Kong from a long quiz master career in London) that there are plans to repeat the event. As there are to make “Out in the Open” a part of the annual LGBT calendar. ‘We must do this every month... every six months... every year’ were remarks thrown at the organisers by tired revellers making their way home.
So, as of this moment, the plan is that “Out in the Open” will happen again, scheduled perhaps to fit in and support the Pride Parade, to maybe help finance it, and to provide a social outlet for those coming for abroad to enjoy while they’re here to march. "Out in the Open" it would seem, is here to stay.
Nigel Collett is the Joint English secretary of Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM).