Hong Kong has been lagging behind. Not something it likes to acknowledge usually, of course, but in the case of its lack of a gay festival Hong Kong has allowed other cities to steal a march on it. If you look around the region, Hong Kong is beginning to stick out like a sore thumb (if that is possible for something not there at all!). Across the straits in Taiwan, there have been growing and internationally very successful festivals of some sort as far back as 1997, when Taipei held its first Gay Pride Festival; its pride parade or carnival, launched in 2003, has by now become the largest in Asia with 30,000 participants and attendees, usually in late October every year. Singapore founded its Indignation festival in 2005 and has had the by now hugely successful Pink Dot since 2009. Over the border in the Mainland, Beijing has had sporadic LGBT festival events since 2005 and Shanghai, though with difficulty, kicked off a Pride Week in 2009.
Now, though, there are encouraging signs that Hong Kong is getting its act together. This month, the Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (Hong Kong’s alliance of LGBT groups, the TCJM) announced the birth of The Pink Season, a festival of LGBT events to link many of those already happening in Hong Kong and to stimulate and create more. The idea is to build on what already exists to provide a focus for the local LGBT community’s calendar and to attract tourists from across the world.
The Pink Season 2011 kicks off on 30 September. This may be seen by some as a trifle premature, for when the constituent events were planned no one had thought of a season, so they are all very widely spread about the calendar, indeed as late as 4 December. What happened was that when the TCJM and the key event organisers approached the Hong Kong Tourist Board they had not expected more than a guarded acknowledgement of the season’s existence, and that it would be 2012 that would see its start date. Instead, they found that the Tourist Board were much more enthusiastic than that, and in effect pressed everyone to go ahead this year so that they could observe the events and then, if all went well, include them in their calendar for 2012. So ahead they decided to go. ‘Pink Season organisers hope the city's authorities realise the tremendous potential this festival has in terms of attracting tourists from all over the world,’ comments Season Coordinator, Anshuman Das.
The Pink Season will be headed up by ‘Mr Pink’ aka DJ BLing aka Brian Leung, radio presenter of RTHK’s We Are Family programme, founder of Hong Kong’s first gay netcast Gaystation and moderator of the gay dating service Member2.com. Brian is one of the best known figures in the Hong Kong gay community, so a great choice for the Season’s public face. He’ll be backed up by The Pink Season Coordinator, Anshuman Das, AD to all who know him, who’ll be the man shouldering most of the day-to-day work for the festival. AD is the TCJM’s webmaster and leader of communications, and he heads up an already growing team of volunteers.
The events in The Pink Season will all continue to run independently, though it is intended that each will benefit from grouping together in future. The full detail of the programme as it develops will be shown on The Pink Season web page and in due course full details of its income and expenditure will be shown there too, so that the season’s finances will be transparent. The major events that have so far asked to be included in the 2011 programme are:
Electric Pink: The Pink Season launch party – 30 Sep
Mr Pink (aka Brian Leung) will kick off the season with a groovy music party at the XXX Gallery with music spun by DJs Alok, DJ BLing (Brian Leung himself), Nerve and Shelf-Index.
Mr Gay Hong Kong – 15 Oct
Impresario James Gannaban presents the third glamorous evening of Hong Kong’s bold and beautiful boys at Bisous. It’s planned that in future years this event will be timed to allow visitors to catch both Mr Gay Philippines in Manila and Mr Gay Hong Kong.
Floatilla – 16 Oct
Hong Kong’s biggest boat party of the year. Starting points at Aberdeen, Causeway Bay and Central Pier 9, with destination this year Lo So Shing Power Station Beach, Lamma Island.
Out in the Open – 6 Nov
The annual festival of fun and diversity at Bauhinia Beach Club, South Bay Beach, for LGBT people and their families and friends.
Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival – 18 Nov to 1 Dec
Asia’s largest and oldest lesbian and gay film festival showcases the best and the latest LGBT films from around the world in Hong Kong cinemas.
Gay Day @ Disney – 4 Dec
A gay day with your favorite Disney characters at Hong Kong Disneyland Park and Hotel.
There will also be sporting and cultural events scheduled through the period. “Pink Season hopes to inspire local artists and showcase their work to an international audience. We are not here to make money. We are here to tell the world what a great cultural city Hong Kong is,” explains AD. The cultural events announced so far include a new production by Billy Sy, Pichead Amornsomboom and Frankie Ho of the off-Broadway gay musical Falsettoland (which will go on stage at the Fringe Club in late October), and a show focussing on gay rights by the dance and movement duo Tony Wong and Allen Lam.
The elephant in the room here, of course, is the Hong Kong Pride Parade. As this article was going to press two pieces of news were released on 24 August by the Hong Kong Pride Parade 2011 Committee. The first was that the date of the Parade had finally been fixed for Saturday, 12 November. So there will be a Pride Parade here. The community had begun to despair that this would take place. The Hong Kong Pride Parade lasted only two years from 2008 to 2009 but failed to get off the ground in 2010. The organisers that year blamed the absence of the parade on the community, which they accused of not contributing money, but they had not asked for any and their effrontery was in reality a fig leaf to cover their own decision not to hold the parade. In November 2010, there were signs that the organisers might get their act together for 2011 and actually emulate the rest of the world by fixing a date that could go into people’s diaries in time to attract the maximum numbers. That didn’t happen, though in a statement made to the South China Morning Post in August 2011 (that is only three months before the event was due and still with no date fixed in the calendar) the organisers indicated that they thought they were actually early this year in their preparations. Well, at least we now have a date, belated though its publication has been.
Sadly, the second piece of news that emanated on 24 August from the Parade’s organisers was that they did not wish to be included in listings for The Pink Season. Despite having had a representative at the Season’s founding meeting with the Hong Kong Tourist Board in November 2010, and having been copied all information since, they had since chosen not to take part and now, claiming that they had not been informed or consulted, stated that they wanted nothing to do with The Pink Season. It is difficult to think of a more spectacular way for them to have to shot themselves in the foot. To deliberately sever ties with the rest of the community while seeking at three months’ notice to raise over HK$150,000 (US$19,000) was an act calculated to cut off more than a nose to spite a face. One hopes that the administrative skills of the organisers prove better than their skills at managing their relationships with the rest of the community. Hong Kong needs a Pride Parade and it needs it done well. It is clear that the serious problems with the organising committee are endangering the successful fulfilment of the community’s hopes.
The Pink Season, though, is now very definitely in the calendar, and intends to have the 2012 dates roughed out this autumn. Hong Kongers will now, perhaps, be able to hold their heads up in the region again!
Nigel Collett is Fridae's Hong Kong correspondent and the Joint English secretary of Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM).