A significant milestone in the LGBT calendar has just passed: the 20th Anniversary of Brighton Pride. Off we trotted to immerse ourselves in our sub-culture, travelling south on the queen’s express. We watched in amusement as the line of muscle marys minced towards the loo to fix their looks and say hi to Charlie.
It was the Pride equivalent of the rush hour when we arrived at the park. Our good-humoured band of brothers and sisters snaked around the perimeter in their camp and colourful finery. As the masses queued, the booze was fast-necked; just like the airport, liquids were not allowed gayside. Well, not the alcoholic kind, anyway. We broke through the barrier and headed straight for the bar, bagging a couple of cans before meandering through the frenzied enclosure. We had a ball, bumping into old friends, avoiding long-lost acquaintances and convincing ourselves we would survive the day without a little extra ‘stimulation.’
The open-air little boy’s room was a real challenge. The pissoirs looked like they’d been sawed in half, giving a full view of willies in the round. When the man next to me flopped out his baby’s arm, I withdrew in bashful inadequacy and headed to the Cabaret Tent to catch some drag with my tail between my legs. We really enjoyed our day out at the seaside. Getting tipsy among the brethren and wrapping myself around Liam without having to gaze over my shoulder was rather liberating. I’d forgotten how much. All too quickly, the bash came to an end and we joined the sozzled throng as it weaved its way to the exit. Numbed by alcohol and petting each other like a pair of love birds, we staggered back to catch the evening train. The tedious journey back to the Smoke was made less so by sharing a laugh, a flirt and a king-size bag of mini chocolate hob-nobs with a boisterous gaggle of young things next to us.
Down the years, I have watched Brighton Pride grow from little more than a village fête to a vast enterprise attracting tens of thousands from across the country (and the world). It was no great surprise when it eventually collapsed under the weight of its own success. Something was bound to snap. Two years ago, a catastrophic day of bad weather swept the party into the English Channel and left a stack of unpaid bills for the organisers. To keep the wheels on the wagon, Pride was restructured as a not-for-profit community organisation and Pride in the Park has re-emerged as a gated ticket-only event, run on a fully commercial basis and propped up by a team of corporate sponsors. A water-resistant formula was clearly needed and, for the first time ever, serious cash is now being pumped into the coffers of local charities. Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking that a paid-for event goes against the whole spirit and ethos of Pride. Times are hard. Despite the concessions for early bird buyers and the young (though not the old), the cost was bound to exclude some people who might otherwise have popped along to share in the fun. For me, Pride is about embracing everyone regardless, not about paying a high price to be proud. Have a paid-for festival by all means, but don’t call it Pride. The future of Brighton Pride seems secure but does it deserve to be?
My apologies for my terrible images (blame my not so smart smartphone). I’ve mixed them in with some better pictures from the Pride Parade.