As an end to the Summer Festival week, the residents of Brighton & Hove held their 19th Pride celebration on Saturday 7th August. A wild variety of colourful and smiling characters danced through the streets.
After arriving at the train station early in the day, visitors were immediately accosted by hawkers leaning up shopping trolleys, advertising their goods – selling whistles and pink Union Jack flags. Also standing around were a bunch of people wearing fluorescent yellow jackets with the word ‘Security’ printed on their jackets. They were already looking bored.
As the Parade didn’t actually start until 11am, a visit to the beach and pier was irresistible. Under a dark and overcast sky, the beach was only a 10 minute walk away from the station and along the way people in their pyjamas could be seen securing rainbow flags to their windows and balconies. Unfortunately upon arrival at the beach, no sandcastles could be made as the immensely clean beach consisted of tiny pebbles and stones. Aside from crawling into the shoes of visitors, these pebbles made a rather lovely rocking and crunching sound as the sea rolled them around. To the right was the old burned down pier, standing majestically, refusing to fall under the waves. To the left was another pier still complete with amusement arcades, tarot card readers and guys selling cockles and mussels. Once a pound or two had been spent at the pier on the penny pushers, cuddly toy grabbers and dance machines it was time to walk back onto dry land to get ready for the parade.
Next to this pier, all along Maderia Drive waited the decorated vehicles. The festival this year was entitled ‘Pride and (No) Prejudice’ with many people wearing period costumes. Parade participants milled around, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and patiently posing for the curious tourists with their cameras. Young children eagerly posed with people covered in sequins and feathers. Other groups took the chance to try and get signatures for petitions or handed out leaflets advertising other events that were happening during the day.
Eventually the 10 minute warning call went out to the participants – soon they would have to take up their positions on the vehicles or in the groups that would walk along the route. The curious tourists made their way further up the Drive to get a good viewing position for when the parade would pass by.
Away from the assembly point along the closed roads where crowds that were five people deep lined the kerbside, even more hawkers ran up and down with their trolleys targeting parents with wild-eyed children. Shortly after 11am the parade started to make its way along the route. Headed by the Gay Police Association (who got a massive round of applause), the ‘Oldest Gay in the Village’ followed behind them on his mobility scooter. He had attached a big sign above his scooter which read ‘Hi, most of you will have no idea what it was like to be gay when I was your age. Donate £5 to pride & my friend Dorothy will give you a signed copy of my book. I’m the oldest gay in the village. (All posed photos will cost you a donation).
Many of the participants dressed flamboyantly and were obviously enjoying themselves – showing off to their friends and the spectators alike. There were several commercially sponsored and main political party groups – such as the Green Party who carried the slogan ‘Dear Pope, Keep your bigotry in the Vatican,’ but there were also several other groups with agendas. These included raising awareness about domestic violence, ending HIV stigma, acceptance of LGBT individuals within the religious community or the law community, uniting lesbians nationwide and promoting the Gay Caravan & Camping Club plus many more.
The parade made its way through the city centre lined with thousands of spectators and then up to Preston Park. If the spectators didn’t follow the parade route and went straight to the park, it was still a good 1.7 mile / 35 minute walk – enough to wet ones appetite for the expensive fast food and drinks on sale there. The park was packed out with people having picnics and browsing through the stores. The organisers had thoughtfully separated the stores selling the adult sex toys from those selling family friendly toys, clothes and jewellery. There were also plenty of charities handing out advice to anyone that asked.
Other attractions included a dance tent for over 18’s (£5 entry), a fairground, a cabaret tent, a womens tent, along with a youth and family area. There were a few free toilets dotted around, but plenty of hapless people joined the long queues for the toilets that cost £1 to use – and didn’t realise until the last moment. These were meant to be of a better quality than the free ones, even though they were reported to have no locks on the cubicles, brown material smeared over the back of the toilet doors and no soap to wash hands with after visiting them. In all fairness any money raised was ploughed back into organising Pride. It costs over £250,000 to put on the one-day event so money should really be given whatever the premise for collecting it. The ladies could alternatively pay 50 pence to go stand up while going to the toilet and use a she-wee – there were no queues for this alternative.
On leaving the park and going back into town to the railway station, London Road was still closed to accommodate the masses of pedestrians walking along the route. Many businesses along the road were attempting to attract the potential extra customers by bringing out stalls onto the street, selling drinks and food – even if they were antique shops. Pride appears to benefit not only the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transvestite people but many aspects of the community in Brighton.
It’s a great way to spend a day in Brighton, but it has become so popular that it seems to be on the verge of becoming to large for its own good. Check your local area and see if there is a Pride event happening near you.