Last Saturday Norwich Pride was back painting the town pink after a three-year absence because of you know what. And it was back with a bang – bigger, brasher and better than ever. Our bus into the city was transformed into a pride express, stuffed with jolly rainbow people from town and county. After arriving in the city, we joined the crowd of many colours heading to the centre and pitched our tent along Gentlemen’s Walk to watch the parade. It ran late. Turns out that a cast of thousands wanted to get in on the act, so it took a while to gather them all up.
When it did set off, the exuberant mega-march just went on and on and on. It was truly heartening to see a long chorus line of so many young people putting it out there, happy and unafraid.
Norwich Pride is fully inclusive, everyone welcome, no one turned away. Why? Because it’s free. Some other pride events are now ticket-only. I get it, really I do. Many are run on a wing and a prayer and a bad weather day can result in a wash-out, leaving a trail of unpaid bills. But not everyone can afford the price to be proud, especially right now. Just like the NHS, let’s hope Norwich Pride remains free at point of access for many, many years to come.
We moved to Norwich in 2012 after our four year adventure in Turkey. During this short time, the city has become busier, buzzier, more welcoming and more diverse – from Chinese students studying at the University of East Anglia and South Asians working for Aviva, to the rucksacked troupes of Spanish school kids wandering around thanks to direct flights from Spain to our very own little International airport. Tourism is on the rise, ably assisted by the merry band of volunteer ‘here to help’ street hosts handing out smiles and leaflets. We might even get a bumper crop of visitors from Vietnam – now that the CEO of Vietnam Airlines described the city as ‘irresistible’ and ‘serene’. Same-sex couples can and do walk down the street hand-in-hand and the Norwich Pride event is a firm fixture on the city’s annual social calendar.
Things aren’t perfect – far from it. The increase in rough sleeping and substance use is the most visible sign of this. Not that there’s any cash to fix the problem in the barmy blond bombshell’s big pre-election giveaway. There are very few votes in helping the homeless. And, even in liberal Norwich, small minds still exist. A case in point is the silly man who refused to drive a bus because the route number was displayed in rainbow colours. He allegedly told passengers, ‘This bus promotes homosexuality and I refuse to drive it.’ As we all know, the mere sight of a pretty rainbow can turn even the most red-blooded bloke in an instant. Just like the pealing of church bells makes us all fall to our knees to pray. He was reported to the bus company and suspended, pending an investigation. Good. I have no wish for him to lose his job but he really does need to leave this bigoted nonsense at home and get on with what he’s paid to do.
Sadly, for various reasons, we didn’t make it to Norwich Pride 2019 for the daytime festivities, though we did manage to catch the tail-end of the fun and raised a glass or two in a local hostelry. Judging by all the party pictures splashed across social media the following day, we missed the best-ever with thousands of folk of every imaginable hue marching and dancing, chanting and cheering. The big pink gong must go to Town Crier, Mike, who opened the proceedings with a rousing speech from the balcony of City Hall.
For more amazing scenes, check out the coverage on Auntie Beeb’s website.
Norwich Pride has come of age with a huge rainbow flourish as sparkling as the weather. A marcher held up a placard that read ‘The First Pride was a Riot’ – a nod to the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York. This year’s march was led by the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, the pride organisers, coppers sporting rainbow epaulettes and the Lord Mayor waving a rainbow flag. We’ve come a long way.
A lone dissenter held up a large cross and urged the crowd to repent. Onward Christian soldiers smiled at him benignly as they passed by.
Young and old marched together. An older guy caught my eye. He was riding a mobility scooter emblazoned with pride motifs and sipping a glass of white wine. Now that’s the way to travel. The loud and proud procession took about an hour to pass and was brought up the rear by an enormous rainbow ‘river’ held aloft by revellers.
Pride in the park was packed with a rainbow of people of every gender, size, age, persuasion, ability and garb. We roamed about soaking up the merriment and watched a few of the acts doing their thing on the main stage. When the youthful crowd started singing along to a cover version of S Club 7’s ‘Reach’, my heart melted. A young lady emerged from the audience and asked us if we were gay. She couldn’t have been more than 16. “Yes”, we replied. “I’m so proud of you,” she said. “I’ve just come out”. We hugged and wished her well.
Yesterday, Norwich Pride reached the grand old age of 10 and the streets of the city throbbed to the fabulous in their multi-coloured glory. We came, we saw, we partied along with the mums, dads, kids and grandparents. Summer is Pride season and rainbow flags have been flying across the realm. Sadiq Khan, London’s Muslim Mayor, danced across a giant flag during London Pride and even the sleepy Suffolk town of Beccles flew one from the Town Hall. It’s about inclusion, right?
Not in Russia it’s not. In Russia the rainbow flag is subversive gay propaganda opening the floodgates to kiddie-fiddlers, making ladies of the lads, lads of the ladies and bringing Mother Russia to her knees. Waving it can land you in the clink, or worse. The term ‘Russian bear’ doesn’t refer to a hairy mary bopping round a bum-bag to Abba’s Dancing Queen, and it takes a brave soul to be out and proud. And so a band of rainbow comrades employed a little cunning to get their point across at the recent World Cup. Big respect to Norwich’s very own Di Cunningham, chair of Pride in Football, who rolled out the Three Lions Pride flag at England games. I’ve read Di and her team got a bit of low-level hassle from the authorities, but as the flag was endorsed by the English Football Association and supported by the UK Government, the Ruskies let it go. No one was going to provoke an international incident at Putin’s big showcase.
Ambassador Laurie Bristow & Deputy Ambassador Lindsay Skoll welcome England fans Di Cunningham @di_ceee & @JoeyWh1te from @3LionsPride to Moscow ahead of this evening’s big match. Football is for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. pic.twitter.com/rrIWH66lIo
More subtle was a group of activists from Spain, The Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia who roamed the streets, squares and subways of Moscow wearing their national kits which just happened to make up – you guessed it – the rainbow flag. Now that’s what I call a result.