Shaughan Woodcock is one half of the two-man team which is pulling together this February's Auckland Pride Parade and he seems to be in his element.
Woodcock has been in events management for â€śabout ten yearsâ€ť, which is perhaps a blink of an eye compared to the other half of the team, Jonathan Smith, but he's drawing on a depth of experience which ranges from corporate events to charity and community events including the much-missed Queen of the Whole Universe uber-pageants which were created and primarily helmed by Smith.
Born and bred in Napier, Woodcock's first job after school was as an apprentice baker but the brighter lights and bigger opportunities of Auckland beckoned. â€śI needed to leave for personal growth and for the job opportunities and to establish a career I was comfortable with,â€ť he says. He's ended up living in Mt Albert â€śliving with a dog rather than a partner... that way there's less arguments,â€ť he laughs. But it also locates him near UNITEC where he is a part-time lecturer in event management.
He's worked with Smith on a number of events over the years, â€śand when Jonathan married Kevin I even ran their wedding for them!â€ť
Asked what he wants to achieve with the Auckland Pride Parade, which is in its fifth year, he says his â€śdream would be a safe environment where members of our diverse communities have a space to express themselves.â€ť
It's taken the parade a few years to start to find its feet. Originally it was run as a daytime parade, with Smith pulled in by the then-Pride board to pull it together from scratch - though with a passing nod to the Hero parades of yesteryear. A diverse community has meant diverse expectations and the early board's authoritarian approach to creating the festival of which the Parade is a major part, have seen year-by-year continuity suffer as successive new parade (and festival) organisers have tweaked, revised and innovated - while in background the board has morphed into a more community-connected entity.
â€śI want to continue building the parade,â€ť Woodcock says. â€śAnd it's time to raise the bar with a little more edginess.â€ť There are â€śso manyâ€ť communities with within the glbti community â€śwho have needs that are having to be fought for, this should be a place where they can voice some of those messages.â€ť
Which raises the issue of the No Pride In Prisons transgender rights activists who felt the earlier parades were to focused on sequins, rainbows and celebration and less on the dark side of the lives lived by too many trans people, particularly those isolated within the prisons system. Their gatecrashing of the last two parades pissed off some who felt such outbursts of anger and frustration shouldn't be allowed to mar a joyous event.
Reluctant to speak on NPIP in any specific way for now, Woodcock says he believes there should be a place for NPIP in the parade this year. â€śCurrently the Auckland Pride Festival Trust are working on that so I really can't say anything more concrete at this stage.â€ť
Woodcock ways there have been around 35 applications or expressions of interest for a parade which has been extended to allow up to 60 floats. â€śThe cutoff date is February 3rd, or sooner if we reach maximum entry capacity,â€ť he says.
The community consultation forums held a year ago identified the issues of youth involvement and cost as areas of concern. â€śWe're actively encouraging youth... it's their parade too. It's a challenge but we're reaching out through social media and through the community.â€ť
The cost of entering the parade has been kept the same as last year he says, clearly with an eye on the considerable financial outlay of mounting the parade. â€śBut we hope any group struggling financially will apply to trusts such as Rainbow Auckland for help with registration fees and the expense of putting together a float.â€ť