Is Rainbow Capitalism the Villain or Hero of the Gay Pride Story?

Originally published on Hatch Macleay.

Rainbow, or pink capitalism has divided the queer community becoming as prevalent as the commercialisation of Christmas.

A term that refers to the integration of the LGBTQI movement and sexual diversity to marketing campaigns for commercial gain, it can clearly be seen in the weeks leading up to last weekend’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the upcoming Pride Month.

All of a sudden rainbow flags hang in every shopfront, colourful heart stickers decorate the walls and pride merch fills the shelves.

Then just as suddenly the flags come down and rainbow stock goes on sale so where is the support the other 10 months of the year?

A 21-year-old gay trans man, who wished to remain anonymous for personal reasons, says pride has moved away from an actual celebration of LGBTQI pride.

“[It] feels like something that any big corporation or political party is out to jump in on in order to make an extra dollar or get an extra vote,” he said.

The Clover Moore Independent Team float. (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

“It’s not about the pride. They don’t care about the homophobic and transphobic violence that still very much happens around Australia and it’s, honestly, vile.”

He described it as “abhorrent” companies he claimed were openly anti-gay courting the gay community or virtue signalling during Pride Month and then disappearing for the rest of the year. As bad were the ones that made no effort at all, he added.

“They post rainbows around their stores and ask queer folk to buy their stuff because, ‘they have rainbows in their windows they’re true allies’ yet none of that money goes to funds for struggling queer people.”

“It’s only as potential consumers that we have value to corporations.”

Emma Kantz, 23

But some of the key Mardi Gras sponsors denied they just paid lip service to the gay community when it suited them.

In a statement to Hatch a spokesperson for Vodafone, the official mobile service sponsor of the Mardi Gras, said they actively support the LGBTQI community through their Connect Network, an employee-run committee which leads initiatives and activities.

“Mardi Gras is just one of our many activities and initiatives to show our support for the LGBT+ community, and our LGBT+ employees tell us that this means a lot to them,” the spokesperson said.

This was the third year Vodafone sponsored and participated in the Mardi Gras parade.

Vodafone said they have also donated devices to the Pinnacle Foundation, sponsored the Australian LGBTI Awards and run internal activities to celebrate their employees.

The Vodafone float in the Mardi Gras parade. (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

An ANZ spokesperson told Hatch that they’ve participated in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for 18 years now and have been the principal partner since 2014.

“We’ve also provided a total of $200,000 to 30 LGBTIQ+ community groups over the past two years as part of the ANZ Mardi Gras Grants Program,” they said.

ANZ said their involvement in Mardi Gras is one of the many ways they demonstrate the importance they place on diversity in the workplace and the community.

“This sponsorship supports our own ANZ Pride Network and since taking up the principal partnership, we’ve seen significant increases in the numbers of staff identifying as LGBTIQ+.”

Participants in the ANZ float at the Mardi Gras parade. (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

We do not suggest that either Vodafone or ANZ have misrepresented their participation in events like Mardi Gras or campaigns surrounding it.

In a statement to SBS News, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras defended their sponsors and explained the ratio of sponsored to LGBTQI community groups.

“Mardi Gras has strict guidelines that require 90 per cent of the parade is LGBTQI community groups and organisations. Only 10 per cent of the parade is made up of partner floats – each and every year.”

“Organisations we partner with go through a selection process via independent committee to make sure they align with the Mardi Gras charter and have robust diversity and inclusion programs to further workplace protections for LGBTIQ communities and to celebrate the importance of diversity in the workplace.”

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras statement

However, many young queer people still believe rainbow capitalism is only beneficial if the proceeds go directly to charities that support LGBTQI groups.

Maddie Mackey, 21, says the fact Mardi Gras went from a riot to a celebration is great but that it turned into a capitalistic circus “sucks”.

“I only like rainbow capitalism when the proceeds go to a charity for gay people which is really just being a decent human being,” she said.

Sarah Lawson, a 21-year-old bisexual, said: ” I personally think rainbow capitalism is really soulless and transparent – unless it’s followed up by a business actually donating to and supporting actual community LGBTIQ+ causes consistently.”

Cailey Raine, a 21-year-old queer uni student, agrees that if businesses are involved they should donate to LGBTQI organisations.

“[Businesses should] make some kind of tangible commitment to making a difference instead of just profiting off the idea of making a difference,” she said.

The Qantas float in the Mardi Gras parade. (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

“I’m not completely opposed to it, I think even shallow representation helps promote acceptance in society even if corporations are profiting from it at least they’re promoting positive ideas.”

The next LGBTQI celebration is Pride Month in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots in 1969.

It’s Like Christmas Just Threw Up in There

Originally published on Hatch.

Self-proclaimed head elf Leanne de Smet, 60, is working through her 40th festive season at the Bredbo Christmas Barn with husband Neville.

The pair had two permanent locations and several pop-up Christmas stores across Canberra before moving their business to Bredbo, a tiny village south of Canberra on the Monaro Highway in 2005.

Thousands step through the red and green striped walls of their ‘Christmas Barn’ each festive season and Leanne and Neville must prepare for a festive assault on the senses with thousands of different ornaments, Christmas trees in every shade and hundreds of cheery Santas.

The red ornament section at Bredbo Christmas Barn (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

Leanne, 60, says the success of the business comes from having a large range of great quality stock; a large majority that they import themselves and some she has personally designed and made, as well as their very personal service.

“I have a growing number of elves who work with us in store, assisting our customers and Neville and I are in the shop pretty much every day we are open,” she adds.

Customers browsing ornaments at Bredbo Christmas Barn (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

“We love meeting every customer, so many have become true Christmas friends over the years some dating back to when we first opened.

“We have their children and even some of their grandchildren shopping with us now.”

Leanne says return customers, new customers finding out about the barn by word of mouth, through Facebook and Instagram, or simply by driving past keep the business growing.

Unlike many retail establishments during this time Leanne says all their customers are extremely positive, the negative ones don’t come as it’s a trip to see the store wherever customers live and they travel from all over Australia.

A sign at the entrance of Bredbo Christmas Barn with details of entry. (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke).

The Bredbo Christmas Barn specialises in internal displays rather than outdoor and sells everything you could imagine for the season, stocking more than 10,000 different tree ornaments each year.

“We have all price points, but I like to carry beautiful pieces that will be passed on over the years, and become family heirlooms,” says Leanne.

A customer browsing the white ornament section. (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

The barn stocks several limited-edition collections such as Katherine’s an American designer with an exquisite attention to detail in their life-sized Santas that can retail up to $3000. This compares to some 45cm tall Santas Leanne designs herself and which sell for $49.95.

Christmas is increasingly commercialised but Leanne says she doesn’t think this has warped the meaning of the holiday at all.

“Yes, I want our customers to buy our fabulous pieces, that way I can continue to buy more every year too but I’m encouraging my customers to replicate that magical feeling in their homes, to start family traditions, and make wonderful memories for their children, their family and friends, to share and reminisce about over the years,” she adds.

A display of reindeer figures and other ornamental decorations. (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

“Christmas doesn’t have to be about the presents, although the odd sparkly bit of compressed coal, is always something nice to find at the bottom of my stocking.

“It’s about surrounding yourselves with loved ones, and if the house happens to look amazing, decorated to the 9’s and 10’s, that is a jolly good bonus.”

A blue-themed Christmas tree amongst other decorations at the barn. (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke).

Leanne says Christmas is all about celebrating family, for some that may be the Holy family and for others their own family both relatives and chosen.

The de Smets plan to spend a casual day with family, a feast of food, bubbles and good conversation while FaceTiming their daughter and two grandchildren who are holidaying in America.

Libraries of The Future Are Actually Here – Now!

Originally published on Hatch.

Boasting an ideas lab where customers can attend a variety of workshops including coding, robotics, virtual reality and school holiday maker sessions, Sydney’s latest library is a far cry from the dusty old buildings of the past.

Located across two floors of the innovative nest-like Exchange at the south end of Darling Harbour and designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma, it also features a market hall, rooftop bar, restaurant and childcare centre.

The lord mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore described it as a ‘spiralling light-filled hive, wrapped in 20 kilometres of sustainably sourced timber’.

The six-storey Exchange is at the centre of the new neighbourhood of Darling Square between Haymarket and Darling Harbour.

Ground level of the Exchange (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

Despite the idea that print books are going out of style and libraries are a thing of the past Mrs Moore said: “At the city, we know how much well-designed and well thought out libraries add to our communities and how loved and appreciated they are by those communities”.

She added libraries were important community hubs that have moved on as society has moved on.

“Public libraries are now being recognised as cultural destinations along with museums and galleries and in a time of rabid population growth they provide much needed space for people to connect, to learn and to relax,” said Mrs Moore.

The Darling Square library is open seven days a week and provides access to over 30,000 items including a large Asian literature collection.

Person in a Very Hungry Caterpillar suit (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke).

The children’s area will have regular bilingual rhyme and story time sessions that cater for the diverse Sydney community.

“This is a state of the art library, it has spaces for ideas and creativity with an ideas lab which includes a multipurpose space for meetings and conferences and the dedicated maker-space,” said Mrs Moore.

She added the ideas lab will support local technology and creative start-ups by providing access to resources and a variety of specialist equipment and materials like 3D printers and laser cutters.

The maker-space at Darling Square library (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke).

“We’re going to put on a program of workshops, seminars and events for kids, teens and adults to create, to invent, to tinker and to explore, and to provide opportunities for participants to up-skill, to share knowledge and to network,” said Mrs Moore.

A Banksy Exhibition Without Banksy?

Originally published on Hatch.

A new exhibition on Banksy has come to Sydney and in true fashion is causing controversy over whether or not the secretive street artist is actually involved in it.

It’s titled The Art of Banksy An Unauthorised Exhibition but questions remain whether this is just a marketing gimmick to fit in with the artist’s anti-authority image.

The England-based artist is well known for his satirical graffiti pieces and his anonymity, and the collection is the largest of Banksy originals ever to be shown in Australia.

The value of Banksy’s work has skyrocketed after his painting Devolved Parliament, depicting British parliamentarians as chimpanzees, sold for a record breaking $18,607,506 in London earlier this month.

The exhibition features 80 pieces of Banksy’s original work and includes pop culture icons Girl with Red Balloon, Pulp Fiction and Rude Copper.

Girl with Balloon (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

Exhibition curators are adamant it really is unauthorised.

Chris Ford, co-curator, described it as more of an overview of Banksy’s artwork produced in the studio and largely donated from a series of private collectors.

“The behind the scenes process of how these artworks came to life, is often not very well publicised so it means that was a part of the story that we wanted to try and uncover a little bit more about,” Ford said.

Previously Banksy’s anonymity hadn’t allowed for this deeper exploration behind his art as he had to keep his identity secret to avoid arrest.

Ford believes this has meant people develop their own idea of who the artist is by looking at his work.

“I think it’s quite a powerful element to his pictures because it gives people the opportunity to have their own idea, to create their own sort of superhero for want of a better word,” he said.

An original Laugh Now Barcode (Photo: Brianna O’Rourke)

Ford says the show is put together with the greatest respect for Banksy’s work and the unauthorised nature of it hasn’t put off many fans so far.

“It’s one of those things that because he’s associated with such controversy, people are always looking for something to make a fuss out of and the unauthorised nature of it seems to be one of those pieces,” he added.

This is not the first exhibition of Banksy’s work to proceed without any contact or permissions with the artist himself.

In August last year, Banksy publicly denied any affiliation with an exhibition in Moscow announcing on Instagram via a screen grab that he would never charge people to see his art.

However, he admitted in the same screen grab that he is perhaps not the best person to complain about people putting up pictures without getting permission.

The Art of Banksy An Unauthorised Exhibition is located at The Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park, Sydney.

Currently booking tickets up to December 1. For more information CLICK HERE

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