New Winter Pride directors adding own spin to 'celebration of love'

by Lauren Pattemore - May 14, 2024

One-hundred days out from Queenstown's rainbow winter festival, and things are already getting interesting for its new co-directors, who are navigating change as they implement a fresh vision and face the challenge of holding an event during an economic recession. 

Winter Pride kicks off August 22 and, when it does, Sam Coulthard and Odette Rose will be running the show.

Already possessing an events background, Mr Coulthard first became involved with the festival back when it was still called Gay Ski Week in 2016 - he'd just moved to Queenstown from Christchurch and left his circle of friends behind.

A reason why Mr Coulthard loves the more-than week-long celebration is the community he has there - he can guarantee that during Winter Pride he can see his friends based in other parts of the country and overseas, some of whom he met for the first time at the festival, because they'll all be flying in for it.

Mr Coulthard and Ms Rose have taken over the festival from Martin King and Mike Hughes, who ran it for seven years and were responsible for rebranding it from Gay Ski Week to Winter Pride.

Now, it's time for the newcomers to add their own spin to it. 

For 2024's rendition, the community aspect of the festival is something the pair want to build on, and they reckon they've found ways to involve more people and cater to different interests.  

Mr Coulthard tells Crux he recognises not everyone wants to go to drag events, and that's why they have decided to "diversify" their offerings, using their community ice skating and Drum and Bass events as an example. 

During the past year, the pair worked at rejigging the 50 events offered in the space of 10 days, and they received a few calls from the public wondering where the tickets were.

Mr Coulthard says they only released tickets last month, whereas the former directors had them out in December of the year before.

There have also been difficulties with sponsorship and funding in this year's economic climate, as contributors aren't in the same financial position as in previous years and have been unable to give the same amount of funding, he says. 

Nevertheless, the pair have persevered and are looking forward to August.

Ms Rose says joining the team was a "natural step" for her.

She describes herself as having a passion for creating safe spaces where people can freely express themselves.

"Winter Pride has always been about more than just a festival. It's a beacon of hope and inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the South Island, where pride events are relatively few and far between compared to other regions of the world."

Ms Rose has been a longtime supporter of Winter Pride and believes the festival plays a significant role in empowering people to embrace their identity without fear of judgment or discrimination.

"Despite the challenges we've faced with sponsorships and funding, we're committed to keeping Winter Pride in Queenstown...this town embodies the spirit of acceptance that we strive to promote.

"In light of recent global events and rising hate crimes against marginalized communities, it's crucial to provide a safe space where individuals can be themselves.

"Winter Pride is a celebration of love, acceptance, and unity that remains incredibly important for Queenstown and the South Island."

She says they've got family-friendly gatherings as well as activities tailored specifically to senior citizens. 

Winter Pride 2024 starts on August 22 and wraps up on the first of September. 

Main image (Supplied): Sam Coulthard, right, and Odette Rose at Winter Pride 2023.

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