Around the world, every year, there are cities that erupt in a riot of rainbows and glitter as their LGBTQ communities take to the streets for pride. Some call it a march, some a parade, but however you describe it, it is a wave of people celebrating something they believe in; the right to love.
A Bit About Me and Pride
I grew up in Brighton, England’s “gay capital” where being out and proud is really very normal. I am straight, and have been to Pride for years and, covered in rainbows and glitter myself, I have always had a ball! It’s inclusive, usually sunny enough to get a tiny bit burnt, and the atmosphere is one of joyful excitement.
On a serious note, Pride is something that we probably take for granted here in the UK. It is fifty years this year since being homosexuality was decriminalised and we have come on leaps and bounds. There are a huge number of countries where it is still frowned upon, some where it is still illegal and even some where you can be put to death for your feelings. That is why I think it so important to express how proud I am to live in a country where you can love whomever you choose.
This year, I was lucky enough to be chosen by my company, to walk with them in both London’s and Brighton’s Pride parades.
London Pride 2017
“Love is Love”
Now as a statement, I couldn’t agree more but as a theme….this is one of those wishy washy, all-inclusive themes that has been the scourge of the Pride world for the last few years. Worried that LGBTQ wasn’t inclusive enough, themes have become increasingly more like mission statements. We have always enjoyed dressing up with the theme (musical theatre was a particular favourite of mine, I went dressed as Judy Garland and my male companions were all “friends of Dorothy”).
However, with such a vague theme, nobody knows what to wear!!
Interestingly, this year, major brands got in on the action in more than the parade. Clothing shop New Look for example brought out a range of slogan t-shirts (I kissed a girl and I liked it, I am a unicorn etc etc) to cash in on the Pride vibe in London. We saw quite a few of these en route.
Arriving at our base camp, a Starbucks near Euston, I started looking around for any familiar faces. I signed in and they handed me my “Pride in Flight” t-shirt. It was white, which was a bit disappointing really. I was hoping for a punchier colour. It was time to take matters in my own hands. Just then, my friends from work arrived.
Many years before I had purchased a rainbow face paint crayon. You swipe it once and all the seven rainbow colours are applied at once. I got my friend to draw a stripe up each of my legs. Tada! Home made rainbow stockings.
We scoffed the provided breakfast to prepare for the long walk ahead whilst adding war paint to everyone’s faces. The contour look got a rebrand for the day.
I lamented my forgetful nature, I had completely neglected my massive glitter pot. It was lying sad and lonely at home with no sunshine to make it sparkle.
Instead of a float, in the traditional sense, we had a customised jeep with a DJ booth on the back. It was pumping out music towards the crowd and loud enough to be heard for quite a distance.
In front of the car, seven people danced with peacock tails made of balloons. Each was a different colour of the rainbow. I helped carry these along, and they made a rather lovely feather boa.
The rest of us walked behind a big, white banner and gave out “pride in flight” luggage tags. Most people ran out within the first 20 minutes but I rationed mine hard! You had to earn it by singing along with me and giving it some welly.
We set off from Regents Park and made our way incredibly slowly down past the BBC’s Recording House. There was a bit of delay further up in the parade and so a lot of energy was expended on the first fifth of the route . We danced the entire time! The parade then travelled South through Oxford Circus and down Regent Street.
Next we partied around Piccadilly Circus, down towards St James Park and along the finishing stretch to Trafalgar Square. After the initial hold up, the parade moved quite slowly but it we eventually made it to our destination about three hours later than planned.
I was quite surprised at how many massive companies were involved in the London parade. Huge international brands like YouTube were there along with Tesco and even a cheeky Nando’s. I think I was used to a more local vibe. There seemed to be lots of double decker buses with people on, rather than more traditional floats. I think it is probably more about presence than “a parade”.
The Best Bit
Our music was fantastic. As we walked, we weren’t allowed past our sign (a rule which I kept getting distracted and forgetting about). Most of the route was fenced in by traffic barriers or temporary metal fences. This meant there was no spontaneous dance parties to be had, instead, I just tried to get the crowd to sing along. We became a walking karaoke-mobile which was great fun.
I met some really great people who work elsewhere in the business, and who I might never have had the chance to meet. Dancing with the guy above, who had flown over from the USA was awesome!
Brighton and Hove Pride 2017
“Summer of Love”
In 1967, the world fell under the spell of the summer of love. Hippies distributed flowers, the contraceptive pill increased choice for women, leading to sexual revolution and homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK.
Waking up far too early, I wandered down from my Mum’s house, to the Kings Lawns in Hove. This is right next to the beach and it was a wonderful sunny day that greeted me. This time I had volunteered to wear my uniform so I didn’t get one of the T-shirts. It turned out that a few other people who were a few uniform wearers that hadn’t turned up and so there was just myself and one other girl in the bright red bright suits.
Before leaving the house I had applied my Pride flag with that trusty old crayon and whacked on some glitter. However, there were two make up artists there and so I got a glitter upgrade.
We blew up loads of beach balls to throw out to the crowd and the group was split into two unequal groups. Most people were up on the float, and the rest of us were to pound the streets. There were a few people in t-shirts, everyone in uniform and a small group of models in swimwear and bedecked in a tonne of glitter.
We consumed lots of liquid (no dehydration on the route please) and then had to run to the toilet across the road in The Brunswick pub. It’s a very friendly pub with a performance space attached that houses the “Brighton Beach Boys”, a fun cover band.
Pulled on a huge truck, we had a mock-up of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This was all to do with the competition we were running, and mixed with the huge part San Francisco has played in the lovers of both the hippy and gay populations in the USA. On here our colleagues danced and waved, throwing our beach balls to the crowd.
On the ground we were giving out sunglasses, stickers and helping with the beach balls. We had two large instagram frames for people to jump into. I carried one of these for at least half of the parade and I really enjoyed dancing with it despite it being quite heavy. Oh how my sore my arms were the next day!! We were encouraging people into it for photos and it was great to have an easy way to interact with the crowds. We danced with them, sang with them, snapped photos for them and I got a good few high fives (as well as the odd kiss).
Starting in Hove, we walked East towards Brighton. We paraded past the remains of the West Pier and the shiny new Brighton i360. At the bottom of West Street we turned North up to the clock tower and then turned again down North Street. At the Old Steine we turned once more making a new line for Preston Park, the end point of the parade
Brighton and Hove Pride is a much more local affair. Local businesses and support services all parade. The emergency services, as well as the local military are all represented. Everyone’s favourite bit is when the firemen get out their hoses….no pun intended. You also see alot more people who just dress up and join in.
Floats are big, loud and very brightly coloured. One of my favourite floats has to be the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus, who always put on a real show on the way round.
The Best Bit
I am biased. I know I biased, but being by the seaside, in the sun in a city full of love was brilliant. The parade is a real family affair so everyone can enjoy the day.
Afterwards, there are a few choices. You can get a ticket to go to Preston Park. They have rides, stages and tents. You can go down to the beach and hang out in the sun with an icecream. You can go to the “village”. Brighton’s Kemp Town is ticketed and contains most of the city’s best gay bars. Basically, the whole place is partying and you get to choose the way you want to.
Thinking of Visiting a Pride Parade?
- Book in advance – Hotel prices can skyrocket over Pride weekend. My advice is to book early, and don’t forget to check sites like Airbnb. People might rent their spare rooms out for these special occasions and may not have the same minimum nights stay or price tag as normal hotels.
- Prepare for the weather – It may rain, it may shine, it may hail…it may do all three! Bring sun cream, an umbrella and an extra layer.
- Love is love – People are expressing their sexuality and that is great.
- Wear comfortable shoes – These days are long and unless you can pound it out in ten inch platforms like the drag queens in the parade, stick to nice comfy flats.
Parading is exceptionally fun. A wave of adrenaline sweeps you down the street but be warned, when you reach the end of the route, you will CRASH! In London I spent the rest of the day trying to fall asleep on my feet and in Brighton, walking 23,000 steps in my work high heels suddenly crippled me when we reached the park!
If you are just coming to watch, have a brilliant time. Support Pride and enjoy every second of the day!
(Thanks to Jacqui, Karl and Naomi for your wonderful photos)