Bruce Lietze and Alistair O'Brien with part of their
Blossom Festival float which has been judged ''offensive''.
Photo by Sarah Marquet.
For the first time in the Alexandra Blossom Festival's
history, aspects of a float have been deemed offensive and it
will not appear in tomorrow's 57th annual procession.
The float in question contains a large model of a 12-week-old
foetus, cradled in two hands, with signs including statements
such as ''Who will save me?'' and ''Adoption will save me''.
Festival event manager Martin McPherson had visited the shed
on Wednesday where the floats were being built and, after
discussion with festival committee members, the foetus and
some signs were deemed offensive, inappropriate and too
The group behind it, Life is Precious, was offered a
compromise - remove the ''offensive'' elements or replace
them with something else but the outraged float builders say
they cannot do that and feel they have been effectively
banned from the parade.
''I'm digging my toes in. If the whole thing doesn't go in,
it doesn't go in [at all]. I can't compromise to the extent
that has been suggested,'' group spokesman Alistair O'Brien
The group has labelled it an attack on freedom of speech.
''What really gets me is the freedom of speech thing ... this
is blocking freedom of speech,'' Bruce Lietze said.
Mr O'Brien said what was offensive to one person might not be
to another and the use of ''bastard'' in the Alexandra and
Dunstan Lions clubs' Mt Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary-themed
''We knocked the bastard off'' float was offensive to him and
''could easily be considered offensive by many families''.
He said he felt there was nothing offensive or shocking about
the banned float and that the unborn baby was instead
''beautiful'' and ''serene''.
''I have six children and don't want to put anything shocking
in the parade.''
The rest of the group's entry included story book hero
''Biggles'' in a World War 1-era biplane and two replica
Mr McPherson said the rest of the float was ''terrific''. He
would love to have had it in the parade and he did feel bad
for pulling the pin on the group at the eleventh hour.
The men have been working on the float for the past three
months and are devastated it has all been for nothing.
Mr O'Brien said the group agreed the festival committee had a
duty to censor parade entries but ''where they have decided
to draw the line of decency for the family friendly parade
is, sadly, ludicrous''.
Festival committee chairwoman Clair Higginson said the
committee reserved the right to ask people to withdraw
inappropriate floats. It had exercised that right on this
occasion, as the float could have been ''upsetting'' to some
''Making a political point is not what the parade is about.
One may make it [a political point] if it fits in ... but,
clearly, this is not about welcoming spring to our community.
It was drawing our attention to an issue which worries many
people in our community.''
She said the festival was meant to have themes of
''celebration, commemoration, beauty, spring, having fun and
creating a sense of togetherness''.
Organisers have arranged for the float's princess, Sarah
Hesson, to take a seat on a non-competitive float so she can
still take part in the contest for the festival crown.
Ms Higginson said the committee, for future festivals, might
''go back and look at how we ask people to describe their
The group had entered a float with a similar theme last year.