PRIDE March Victoria and Midsumma Festival have announced the two organisations were seeking to merge, with Midsumma producing Melbourne’s pride march as a festival event from 2015 — prompting community concerns the march will lose its grass-roots focus.

The announcement came following months of discussion between the two organisations, and the proposal will go to special general meetings of the two memberships later this month.

In a joint statement, the organisations said if the changes were adopted, Pride March Victoria as an organisation would cease to exist and a commitment to an annual pride march event would be written into Midsumma’s constitution.

The organisations have argued the merge will ensure the ongoing sustainability of Pride March, offering it the support of the festival’s larger organisational structure. It would follow several years of financial uncertainty for Pride March Victoria, which received financial and in-kind assistance from Port Phillip City Council and St Kilda-based business associations to put on this year’s event.

Midsumma chair Aaron Hockley has addressed concern from some in the community that a merge would mean the march could lose its identity as a grass-roots political event and shift towards the spectacle of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

“I think it’s actually the opposite… I think the challenge for us is that we want to make sure that the march is actually representing something each year, and that may be where we do call for specific community engagement about what are we marching for… Maybe next year is the marriage equality march or something like that,” Hockley told the Star Observer.

“We think Sydney has a great parade. We don’t want to compete with that, and we think that Melbourne has a great pride march and we want to continue that.”

Hockley said no substantive changes would be made to the event in 2015, and it would remain for the time being at St Kilda. Under the merge, Pride March Victoria board members would form an organising committee within Midsumma for the transition leading up to next year’s march.

In an interview on LGBTI radio station Joy 94.9, Hockley and Pride March Victoria president Matt Renwick rejected the prospect of widespread community dissatisfaction with the merge, arguing the outcry was coming from a vocal minority. They argued most people who attended pride march were not aware there were two separate organisations.

Both Midsumma and Pride March Victoria said there would be no formal community consultation on the future of the march going forward, but said they were open to feedback at any time.

“We wouldn’t put our names or contact details or our emails on all of our intellectual property if we didn’t want to be contacted. I’m more than happy to be contacted by people who want clarification as to what’s going on,” Renwick told the Star Observer.

The two organisations will hold consecutive special general meetings at 6pm on Thursday, May 29 at South Melbourne Town Hall.

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