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Pressure over Airbus partnership has led to talks between organisers and campaigners

Organisers of Bristol Pride have held talks with campaigners who launched an intense last-minute campaign demanding that the LGBT festival cuts ties with arms-related corporate funding.

“Solidarity is an action not empty words.”

Daryn Carter, CEO of Bristol Pride, emphasised that the group was ‘listening’ and stressed that they were “committed to finding a way forward, which includes working in a productive and ongoing capacity”.

Charlie, a queer campaigner who previously fought with the Kurdish YPG forces in Syria and wished to be known by first name only, was one of those present at the meeting.

“We were given vague reassurances that our concerns are being taken into account,” they said. “However, I’m concerned that Pride have not, as yet, made any public commitment to not accept sponsorship from arms companies in future.”

Bristol Pride faced intense pressure from sections of the city’s LGBT community this week regarding their sponsorship arrangement with Airbus, a company which builds components of planes sold to and used by repressive regimes around the world. The wings of the A400M transport plane is manufactured at the Filton plant in north Bristol.

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An open letter produced by several LGBT organisations was signed by over 20 LGBT and political organisations and around 100 individuals.

The letter pointed out the company’s links with states such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is violently repressed.

“Solidarity is an action not empty words. For Bristol Pride to claim “we are with” LGBTQ+ activists in Istanbul, who bravely marched despite the ban on Pride, while accepting blood money from a company who supply Turkey’s military is gross hypocrisy,” it stated.

Pressure mounted when performers Brizzle Boiz, who were due to perform on the main stage, dropped out on Monday after a meeting with Bristol Pride organisers. Oliver Assets, producer and co-founder with the drag king act, said the decision was made after they were contacted by their followers who expressed concern.

In response, Daryn Carter emphasised that the event receives no core funding, and the Airbus sponsorship allowed the community area to run, which will host charities and support groups at a time when anti-LGBT hate crime is increasing.

“Sponsorship also helps to keep Bristol Pride a donation entry event, so that no one is excluded from Pride just because they can’t afford it, often those who need it the most,” he added.

Renewed activism on Bristol’s arms industry

The campaign followed several protests at Bristol arms-related firms including a dramatic banner drop from the roof of Airbus, in Filton, in May. More recently, two Bristolians and a Kurdish man based in Cardiff appeared at Cardiff Crown Court following a protest at an arms fair in Cardiff. The case against them was thrown out of court on 3 July.

The increase in campaigning on the issue has come in the wake of the death in March of Bristol-based lesbian Anna Campbell. Campbell died fighting with Kurdish YPJ forces in Northern Syria, protecting civilians against the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish-controlled territory.

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