Happy Pride

Happy Pride

Pride season is in full swing with processions and celebrations large and small up and down the realm and around the globe. It’s a time to revel in the diversity of our rainbow world and a welcome antidote to the pollution of rising populism. We’ve been regulars at Norwich Pride but, sadly, we’ll miss it this year. So, instead, we chucked ourselves into the pride event in Great Yarmouth, a kiss-me-quick bucket and spade seaside town and port on the east coast. As a child, Liam spent many a happy holiday flying his kite along Yarmouth’s golden sands. The resort has long been down on its uppers – the advent of cheap package holidays to sunnier foreign climes saw to that. But, of late, the town been given a shot in the arm by staycationers avoiding Brexit and the construction of enormous wind farms in the North Sea.

Although understandably modest by Norwich standards (not to mention the mega parties in London and Brighton) the pride march along Marine Parade was no less joyful, camp or colourful. Even the Norfolk Fire Service got in on the act by bringing up the rear. No jokes about the fireman’s hose please.

Happy Pride!

Quacky Races

Quacky Races

The Gay Pride marching season is in full mincing swing. But while 40,000 and 160,000 well-wishers lined the parade routes of Belfast and Brighton (respectively) last Saturday, we amused ourselves with something to give even the glitziest of drag queens a run for her sling backs. The Grand Norwich Duck Race, starring oversized bathtub playthings draped in outrageous livery, is a plucky battle fought each year for charity. Once in the waters of the sedate River Wensum, Daffy and his flock all tried to float the wrong way and had to be marshalled up the course by a man in a canoe. Congratulations to the duck from City College for a worthy victory. We retired to the bar of the Playhouse Theatre for a celebratory tipple in the beer garden. Norwich really is quackers.

A Face for Radio

The talented folk at Future Radio must have thought my debut gig on Pride Live wasn’t too embarrassing as they asked me back for a repeat performance. This time, I wasn’t plugging the book. As the Pride season draws to a close and rainbow flags across the realm are folded away for yet another year, I was invited to bang my drum about paying to be proud at Brighton Pride. Towards the end of the piece, my train of thought was fatally derailed by my new-fangled smart phone throbbing in my pants. It turned me into a rambling wreck. Despite my momentary bout of bumbling amnesia, I hope I came across as the voice of moderation. You can be the judge by clicking on the big poofy pink radio.

You can catch the entire podcast here.

My song choice (which I almost forgot) was the Marc Almond cover of Charles Aznavour’s ‘I Have Lived’. Because I have.

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Jack on Future Radio

Pride Apartheid

Pride Apartheid

Pride Apartheid

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.

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Rainbow Balls

The marching season will soon be upon us. I’m not referring to the archaic and socially corrosive pipe and drum marches in Northern Ireland. No, I mean the collective act of uninhibited worship by LGBT communities in towns and cities up and down the realm. He-men in heels, lads in lycra, dames in dungarees and enough gingham to supply every Doris Day film ever made will be parading through the streets chanting the pink anthem, “We’re here, we’re queer, we go shopping.” All are welcome. It’s a glorious celebration of diversity without the slightest risk of disturbance by fascist thugs. Blighty isn’t Russia. The only skinheads on view will be in frocks. It wasn’t always like this. The Sceptred Isle has come along way in a few short years. According to The European International Lesbian and Gay Association Europe, Blighty is the best place in Europe to be gay. From what I’ve read and experienced, I would agree. Who’d be openly gay in Moldova?

Sadly, the dancing days of mega-prides are almost behind us. Most of them operated on a wing and a prayer at the best of times: a single bad weather day would financial cripple the lavish parties in the park with their huge overheads, top billing acts and decadent consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs. The cost of the clean-up operation alone was enough to bail out the Greeks. Brighton Pride is the lone survivor. Last year, for the first time, it was pay-on-the-gate affair. I fear its days are numbered.

We’ve been following the preparations for Norwich Pride with keen interest. Money is tight but the dedicated volunteers are doing all they can to ensure the festival remains both fun for all the family and solvent. The fundraising efforts that have caught my eager eye include ‘Ping Pong for Pride,’ a table tennis knockabout at a local primary school (with rainbow balls) and a Eurovision Song Contest party at Cinema City (proceeds to be split between Norwich Pride and the BBC’s Children in Need). On the 28th July, the gayest day of the year, Norwich will be awash with an ocean of fluttering rainbow flags, including over Hellesdon Hospital, Aviva Insurance, the Norwich Puppet Theatre, City College, Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council, the Castle Museum and the Fire Service Head Quarters. We’ll be there to cheer on the drag queens, soak up the gaiety and to dance to diversity at Norwich’s very own family-friendly rainbow ball.