For the last few years Brighton Pride seems to be remembered for all the wrong reasons; the most worrying being the huge debt that it has acuminated, preventing any of the LGBT charities receiving a single penny after the event.
As fond as my memories are of the first Brighton Pride, which consisted of us all meeting in the park and sharing a few cans of beer and a sandwich, I much preferred the later Gay Prides in Preston Park, along with all the entertainment that was provided. I’d join in with the other line-dancing bears, grrr, amble around the collective stalls that sold everything from strap-on dilldos to “no one knows I’m gay” t-shirts; then I’d sit myself down by the main stage. Okay, from midday till 2 pm, the acts would be people or groups I’d never heard of and most likely never hear of again; but from thereon in things would get fabulously queer.
The fantastic Yvette would try to get the acts on and off stage in time, while some handsome fella would ‘sign’ for the hard of hearing, oh so suggestively….. sorry, where was I? Oh yeah the stage acts. Having this focal point where a plethora of drag acts, gay activist, singers, and politicians would all take centre stage and entertain us, cheer with us and give us food for thought as we acknowledged our freedom to celebrate our LGBT sexuality; something that for many LGBT people living in less liberated countries, are still not allowed to do.
With mounting costs to organise the event, the first thing to go was the main stage; personally, I think this is when Brighton’s Gay Pride began to lose its identity. Next, the title ‘gay’ was removed from all promotional material; at the time it was said that the alternative title ‘LGBT Pride’ was too long winded and so our day was shortened to ambiguous ‘Pride’.
The next thing I noticed to stop appearing was the Names Quilts. For those too young to remember such things, at the time of the AIDS epidemic when death from this disease was a given, loved ones made a simple (or sometime quite elaborate) reminder of the person lost to Aids by sewing their name and a motif on to a piece of cloth. These simple tapestries were then displayed at the quieter part of the park, allowing us all to reflect on those we had lost and a reminder that the disease was still very much prevalent.
Now the day is more about partying in the park, spending £25 to be spun round for three minutes on a fun fair ride, to get sweaty in the dance tent then to chuck up that plate of noodles that seemed such a good idea at the time.
This year, there is even more of a backlash, with the event being fenced in and a charge to enter to cover the cost of doing so. Personally, I think the money on fencing and the extra security needed to implement it should be ploughed into the main stage and bring the focus back on what the day is all about the LGBT community coming together with their friends and family and to celebrate under the umbrella of Gay Pride.