Billed as the gay capital of the UK, Brighton certainly lived up to its reputation when over 150 000 gay (and some straight) boys and girls descended upon the friendly seaside city for the 16th Brighton and Hove Pride Festival.
Throughout the week, a series of fundraising events and club nights took place, with the main attraction of course, being the Pride march and carnival on the Saturday that attracts people from across the country and globe- many of them returning on an annual basis. Most people, like my gang, made their way down from London on the Friday evening to get in the spirit(s) of things the night before.
The city truly was abuzz and the vibe electric as the moffies quite literally took over the town. And as the weather was the best the little island has seen all summer, the locals and visitors spilled out into the streets and made the most of not having to use their umbrellas.
Gathering on the Saturday morning, we met up with various friends from around the country and watched as more than 50 registered floats and walking tableaux took part in a spectacle of colour and sunshine and fun!
The theme for this year’s carnival centerpiece to end the week-long event was “Musicals.” Spectators of all ages, races, sexualities and classes lined the streets and were treated to a truly fabulous spectacle of gaiety – on what was (as I was told over and over again by every local present) the sunniest and driest weekend the UK has seen in months.
Most of the big West End shows were represented along with several golden oldies and definite crowd favourites. Tributes to The Sound of Music, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cabaret, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Okalahoma, Grease, West Side Story, Mary Poppins, Guys and Dolls, Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat, Moulin Rouge, Chicago, and Bugsy Malone, to name but a few, were applauded with great gusto and merriment.
Being one of the best friends of Dorothy myself, The Wizard of Oz float was one of my personal favourites. A 20-odd strong team of boys and girls all dressed as Dorothy in their blue checked dresses, carrying their wicker baskets holding dummy Totos, trailed the main float and performed the most outrageous numbers along the route, delighting each and every person along the way.
Marketing for Pride promised an extravaganza of the bold, the beautiful and the bizarre, and it did not disappoint. The floats were spectacular and some of the best I have ever seen, including those at Sydney’s Mardi Gras. I read that a series of workshops with arts group Same Sky were held months in advance to give ideas and help create some of the floats. These efforts definitely paid off, not forgetting the incredible organisation and team of volunteers. Everything seemed rather seamless and I must commend the organisers for the tight security and slick coordination along the roads and at the park.
The parade made its way through the streets of Brighton and Hove where it culminated in Preston Park for the big carnival. And what a carnival it was! I was in awe of what was probably the biggest outdoor event I have ever attended. And there was something for everyone!
On entering the park, we were of course forced to endure the scorn of the smallest and oldest group of protesters I have ever seen. The funniest part is that the riot police on hand to protect this tiny group of geriatrics were larger in number than the protesters themselves. And given the age of most of them, I predict next year there will be even less. Needless to say, they formed part of the spectacle, and Pride attendees laughed and giggled and minced past, hurling abuse and in chorus chanting; “shame on YOU!” in unison as we looked forward to the fun that lay ahead of us, giving the bible bashers not another moment’s thought.
The 5000 capacity Wild Fruit Big Top had revellers dancing from 1pm until 10pm when the park closed down. Club Revenge’s cabaret tent was hosted by local lady Lola Lasagna and featured a variety of performances and entertainment. There was also the Popstars Tent, a Women’s Performance Tent featuring top female talent, The Bears Zone for big burly men, and another venue called Calabash by People of Colour that had a Bollywood Fantasy theme. There was even the Paul Wilde Line-Dancing Tent.
In addition to this, an enormous funfair was erected featuring some of the scariest rides one could hope for. Both big and small kids had a blast enjoying all the park had to offer, and all for free I must add. I must confess to being far too big a ninny to go on any of the rides – particularly after the large amounts of alcohol consumed!
Outside the main “venues” there were food and drink stalls catering to every taste and desire. Being family friendly, there was the Rainbow Families CrÃ¨che, a market featuring official fund-raising Pride merchandise, a police station, recycling points, St John Ambulance and First Aid stations, free water points, and official bucket collectors collecting all day for the Brighton and Hove Pride Festival registered charity. There were even cash machines at the park, with a 45p donation from each transaction going to Pride.
After the Carnival closed at 10pm, the party boys moved back into town to enjoy the several after-parties and street parties on offer. St James Street, I think (it was getting a little bit hazy by this stage- the heat of course…), was going full tilt, and people then filled the several clubs and bars. Most of my friends and I ended up at Charles Street bar/club, where we danced our way into Sunday.
All in all a fun filled weekend. If you are in the UK around August next year, make your way to Brighton and take part in the festivities! Certainly not to be missed, and definitely well recommended.