Little ol’ Norwich has been voted as one of the top twelve places to live in the UK according to the Sunday Times (as reported in our local rag, The Norwich Evening News). And then Time Out London did a full page spread praising Norwich as one of the happiest cities in the realm. The magazine recommends a few places we know well – The Grosvenor Fish Bar (voted as one of the best chippies anywhere), Wild Thyme for the veggies (but sadly out of action right now due to an inconvenient fire), The Plough (prettiest beer garden in the city), The Playhouse Bar (for an arty student vibe) and Strangers Coffee House (they have their own roastery). I could’ve written the piece myself.
So why are we thinking about laying our cloth cap in God’s Own Country when the time is right? Well, we like it Oop North and, as we shuffle towards our twilight years, it pays to be on the right side of God. Just in case.
By any measure, Norwich Pride 2013 was a rip-roaring, runaway success. 5,000 people flooded into the city to paint the town red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Even the regal lions guarding the grand entrance to City Hall got into the act with rainbow garlands wrapped round their elegant necks and party hats propped on top of their fine heads. The BBC issued a weather warning but sheer exuberance blew the clouds away and bathed the crowds in warm sunshine. This was a Pride with a difference. Despite the large numbers, there was a touching intimacy and a genuine sense of inclusion sadly lacking in some of the mega Prides these days – no VIP areas for the cut above, no egos to massage, no fences to keep people out (or to keep them in), no faces that didn’t fit. We had a ball. Congratulations to the dedicated group of volunteers who made it all happen. You played a blinder.
I was chuffed to be asked to be the voice of Pride on Future Radio. Pity the poor people who had to listen to me witter on several times a day.
Liam and I attended the No to Hate candle-lit vigil in Norwich’s Chapelfield Gardens on Saturday evening which commemorated the savage homophobic murder of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square in September 2009. He was set upon by a feral trio of two drunken girls and a lashed-up boy, all minors at the time. They kicked him unconscious and stamped on him, screaming homophobic abuse as he lay defenceless on the ground. He died of his injuries 18 days later. This was not a case of the dispossessed hitting out at a callous society (not that this is a valid excuse). One of thugs had been to public school. Depressingly, queer bashing is nothing new and used to be quite de rigeur back in the day. We may live in more enlightened times, with the likes of the Daily Mail being slightly less incendiary and a Tory Government (of all things) struggling to introduce marriage equality against the bitter opposition of the bigots of the Right and the Cloth. But, the times are not enlightened enough to prevent vicious bullying in our schools and hate crime on our streets (total recorded crime may be down but reported hate crime is up).
The vigil was organised by Norwich Pride and coincided with events held up and down the realm and the mother of all tributes in Trafalgar Square with a cast of thousands. Our event was a little more modest with about 100 or so huddled around one side of the bandstand. Small is beautiful. The scene was lit by dozens of tea lights flickering away in hand-painted rainbow-coloured holders. There were a few speeches, a tuneful set by the Sing With Pride Choir and a two minute silence heralded by the striking of the City Hall clock. For me, the most tender moment was the last speaker, a young man call Kai (I hope I have spelt this correctly), who told us of his struggle as a man born in a woman’s body. I’m a cynical old queen these days but it brought a tear to my eye. Of course, that could just have been the pain from the hot wax dripping down my fingers.
The remembrance was particularly poignant for me as I knew Ian Baynham. We had a brief fling way, way back in 1980. I still have a photograph of him in a dusty old album that’s miraculously survived being dragged across country and foreign field. Ian’s murder has come to represent the campaign against all hate crimes of whatever hue. Perhaps his untimely demise was not in vain. I can only hope for the best. I can’t help wondering, though, where were the trendy young things? It was a Saturday night and there was plenty of time to swing by before heading to the bars for a bit of boozing and cruising. It’s not that much to ask.
I checked out the coverage of the event in the local press. Norwich Evening News Online did a nice piece. However, I was rather incensed by the comment from Noah Vale who wrote:
“It’s a shame that the constabulary doesn’t have the same attitude to ALL reported crime – not just trendy “right-on” minority group PC crime. How about clearing the streets of aggressive beggars , unlicenced buskers with various animals , illegally riding dangerous cyclists & other assorted drunks & litter louts.”
I was moved to register and reply. I wrote:
“Is this for real? No one ever died from excessive litter. There’s nothing trendy or right-on about being kicked to death by a baying mob or blown to pieces by a nail bomb.”