In a week that saw parliament vote in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, it was fitting that Birmingham Pride 2013 kicked off from Victoria Square, led by the inimitable LGBT activist Peter Tatchell. Modern UK prides are hardly hotbeds of political discussion but the parade that wound its way around the city centre’s streets took the theme message to the thousands of onlookers lining the route: “Say I Do, to Equal Love”. The parade had contingents from the gay venues in Southside, large companies with a presence in Brum, LGBT football and rugby teams, gay walking groups, support organisations, unions, and loads more. The floats were of course colourful and over the the top, and there were a fair few mostly-naked men as eye candy for onlookers. Everyone seemed to be getting involved with rainbow flags on the council house flagpoles, in apartment windows, and on restaurants.
It’s the first year that entry to the Pride area in the gaybourhood has been ticketed and I think it had a really positive effect on the atmosphere. At £10 for the day or £15 for the weekend (cheaper in advance), it was enough to keep out the riff raff – those people that in recent years have been there to cause trouble – but not too much to deter those who genuinely wanted to go out and celebrate their diversity. In fact I simply didn’t see any of the trouble that I have in previous years. The ticketing enabled Pride to donate about £26k to local charities.
As we knew we’d be there for the whole weekend we splashed out on the VIP tickets which basically gave access to a penned off section at the side of the stages in the cabaret tent and main stage. I don’t enjoy being jostled and I think they were a good investment and meant we could come and go as we pleased without fighting through crowds. On the main stage we saw the fabulous Bananarama, an ageing S-Club 3, Rylan (isn’t he tall?!), Lucy Spraggan, and a few others I’m unsure of. On Sunday evening we stayed in the cabaret tent and watched: Kelly Wilde (she sang the hit Gloria), Jacquii Cann, Drag With No Name, Baga Chipz, Sandra (filthy!), Miss Penny, and Norma Lewis. The singers were great, and the drag acts very good – there is nothing worse than having to endure bad drag!
One thing that would’ve been nice with the VIP tickets would have been our own toilets, because as in any large event there are never enough, and they quickly get yucky. For the record, trying to pee in a urinal whilst being heckled by a dozen ladies who are queuing 4 inches away to use the cubicle is more of a challenge than you may think. They were also doing handwash inspections, there were certainly no walkers on their watch.
We thoroughly enjoyed showing some of our friends some of the, erm, more colourful venues and watching their horrified faces as we looked at some of the merchandise on offer from a fetish stall – leather, rubber, and stainless steel oddities featured heavily! There were a bunch of people walking around in outrageous costumes. Some were head to toe in leather, some in morphsuits, others dressed as rubber “pups”. I’m sure some of the boys must have caught a chill given the very small amount of clothing they were wearing!
It’s a massive event, I think the gate figures last year were in excess of 100,000 people, and every year it gets a bit better, a bit more organised, and a bit more enjoyable. Thanks must go to the myriad bar staff, security, police, charity volunteers, artists, and the organisers who even managed to sort out the weather this year. We had a wonderful time, and I’m counting down to Pride 2014 already.
The website for Birmingham Pride can be found here: http://www.birminghampride.com
Some more pics…