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Come out for Bay Pride!

Fri 7 Dec 2012 In: Events View at Wayback View at NDHA

Tama Matene and Ma Ma Laid at Bay Pride 2011 The sun is set to come out for the second-ever Bay Pride Festival in Rotorua tomorrow, with organisers excited about bringing people from all walks of life together for a bit of fun and entertainment. While the first event last year was a huge success, one of its organisers Tama Matene believes there is more community awareness this time around. He says one of the criticisms in the wake of the event was “we didn’t know about it”, but this year the word is spreading. That’s happened in a variety of ways: through gay and social media, and word of mouth, but also through the face (and heels) of the event, local diva Ma Ma Laid (AKA Graeme Cribb), who has been out and about talking it up. Matene explains that since the city’s gay bar closed down she has been ‘wheeled out’ as the community’s promotion machine. “We go out and she is seen in the streets and the bars, which is quite a unique thing for Rotorua.” The response has been very positive, which Matene says is down to the mantra that ‘what you project out mirrors back’: “We’re always very conscious of going out with big smiles on our faces and appearing to be having fun. And Rotorua loves that side of it … she’s developed quite a following.” Matene says with Rotorua being a mixture of a forestry and hospitality city, there are some ‘provincial town’ attitudes, but Ma Ma Laid and her troupe never get abused. “It could be because we’re all over six foot tall,” he jokes. “But it’s more, what you give out is what you get back.” Bay Pride had massive support from the straight community in its first year, but Matene says the gay community is coming forward a bit more this time around. As well as having a heck of a lot of fun, it’s about raising awareness of both mental health and safe sex, with the region’s suicide and HIV statistics far from happy reading. “Getting the whanau talking about it is going to help in the long run,” Matene says. “We don’t have the answers but as a community we can get together and try and work it out,” he continues. Having no gay bar in the city any more has been an issue not just for socialising, but also for support and community building in a city away from the main centres. “We had parents coming to the bar just wanting to sit down and talk to somebody face to face,” Matene says. “It was not just a traditional bar in the main sense, it was also becoming a community focus – we made ourselves visible gays and so we were being approached by concerned parents and people like that.” In the wake of its closure, Matene credits Ma Ma Laid for being visible, raising awareness and being approachable – something which led to conversations about doing something in the community, and the creation of Bay Pride. “It’s about celebrating the diverse community in which we live,” Matene says. “The fantastic town and the Bay of Plenty as a region … we tend to focus on negative things too often. And we see lots of things in the newspaper about Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty that don’t necessarily reflect us in a positive light. So we’re saying ‘hey, yes we know about that, but at the same time there are some really cool things that are worth celebrating.” Bay Pride gets underway at midday and runs till 6PM at the All Seasons Holiday Park (see map below), and while Rotorua has been slammed by some of the wild weather passing through – the forecast is for a brilliant day tomorrow. Even if there are showers, the day will go ahead, with Matene pointing out “we’re not tin – we won’t rust!” Jacqui Stanford - 7th December 2012    

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Friday, 7th December 2012 - 11:08am

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