Community will be front and centre at next year's Auckland Pride, as organisers hope to move beyond the parade debate that overshadowed this year's celebration.

Returning in 2020 for its eighth year, the festival has today launched its programme for the February festival, highlighting the artistic events that will be spread throughout Auckland during the two-week event.

Alongside key events such as the the Big Gay Out and the return of the Pride Gala, the festival will feature international queer artists in headlining acts, with comedian Hannah Gadsby and stars from RuPaul's Drag Race bringing their latest shows to New Zealand.

Max Tweedie, who assumed the newly created role of Director of Pride in June, says the central themes for the 2020 festival will be liberation and celebration.

He says that the festival will be about bringing together everyone from the community to look forward as well as acknowledge the past.

"We really wanted to make sure we created space for the conversations about the gains that still need to be made, but also to be able to celebrate who we are and how far we've come."

Director of Pride Max Tweedie. (Photo / Supplied)
Director of Pride Max Tweedie. (Photo / Supplied)

One event that has been a source of reflection was the debate that ended the Pride Parade. The parade down Ponsonby Road had been one of the festival's main events, but the 2019 parade was cancelled following a contentious decision by the Board banning Police from marching in their uniforms.

While the decision was the result of multiple public meetings, petitions called for a vote of no confidence in the Board, and corporate sponsors withdrew their support.

While Tweedie was not involved in the decision, he says there had long been a "multitude of issues" that had made it a point of contention amongst the community.

The parade was replaced by OurMarch, a toned-down walk from Albert Park, the site of the country's first gay liberation protest in 1972, through Auckland's CBD. Tweedie says there were concerns if replacing the parade with a march would work, but over 2,000 people ended up taking part.

While a splinter group, Rainbow Auckland Pride, intends to host a walking parade during the Ponsonby Street Festival several weeks after the festival, Tweedie does not see it as a rival event, and is welcome for more events that promote LGBT visibility.

He says that through further community discussions this year, it has been clear that have the mandate to carry on in this direction.

"Everyone who was at OurMarch loved it. The community-based feel, it was energetic, it was fun, it was vibrant, and more what the event should be. So what we learnt is the direction we were heading in was the right one."

Tweedie admits there were some consequences in the decision that was made, but it was one rooted in community values.

Participants of OurMarch 2019. (Photo / Peter Jennings)
Participants of OurMarch 2019. (Photo / Peter Jennings)

OurMarch returns next year on February 8th, and will be followed by a public party in Aotea Square. Tweedie says it will be an opportunity for all Aucklanders to take part and celebrate with the LGBT community.

He expects that the 2020 festival will be the biggest ever in terms of numbers, and says the Board is a comfortable enough position they are already thinking about future festivals.

Auckland Pride runs from February 1st to 16th, beginning with the Pride Gala.

Details of the programme can be found on AucklandPride.org.nz later today.

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