Gay loyalty programme faces financial crisis

The organiser of a loyalty card scheme aimed at gay men is facing a financial crisis and accusations of letting down the gay community.

The Freedom Festival Company, set up in January, originally claimed it would raise up to 1.2m a year for gay and Aids-related charities through a loyalty card scheme and annual festival, aimed at the gay community.

The company has now admitted to problems in meeting debts, although it has informed creditors that it expects to secure significant additional funding in July. In the meantime, says the company, it will not take on any further liabilities.

Among creditors is the magazine publisher Northern & Vadavision, which publishes weekly gay freesheet Thud.

The Freedom Privilege scheme, launched in February by The Freedom Festival Company, offers three tiers of discount services to card holders, ranging from financial services to theatre tickets and holidays. Among the stores linked to the scheme were Argos, Superdrug and HMV, according to the Freedom Festival company.

Members pay 15 per year for the basic Freedom Privilege package, rising to 45 per year for the Platinum Freedom Privilege scheme. Discounts on membership fees are offered to people who are HIV-positive and claiming benefit.

It remains unclear how many members the discount scheme has attracted.

According to Julian Alexander, editor of Thud: “It’s disturbing that a company, which originally claimed to have roots within the [gay] community, seems to be using people with HIV and Aids as a means to further its own commercial interests, without delivering on its promises.”

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