Eight hundred and fifty-two days after Pride 2019 packed up its feathers, leather, sequins, wigs, and bunting, Birmingham Pride 2021 launched its biggest ever event across three days, from Friday 24th to Sunday 26thSeptember. Its timing this year of course forced back due to Covid restrictions from its usual slot of the late May bank holiday weekend meaning that revellers, myself included, didn’t have a day of recovery before heading back to the office, be it home or otherwise. This year also saw a change of event venue, with much of the event taking place on around fifteen acres of the Smithfields site earmarked for redevelopment after the move and demolition of the wholesale markets. Of course the event also stretched over the gay village, around thirty acres in total.
Next year’s event is sticking with this new timeslot and making use of the same site once it frees up from the Commonwealth Games which is taking over the area until August. Who knows where it will end up after that now that most of the space in the gay village area and surrounds, including Smithfields, is turned over to the development of even more city centre apartment buildings.
Because of the ample space provided by the new site the organisers were able to install an enormous stage, an even more enormous covered shelter with hundreds of picnic tables, and dozens of food and drink offerings. Food at Pride usually isn’t something to write home about but here they’d gone all out with a variety of offerings from the humble burger, fish and chips, and pizza to more elaborate raclette, and smoked meat trucks (including our friends at That Smoke Truck). Of course there were queues for the bars at the peakiest peak times but it felt genuinely like no one really cared as they soaked up the atmosphere and tunes and chatted with the others queuing.
The event kicked-off early with free community events on the Thursday with a screening of Mamma Mia on the main stage and Friday night featuring community LGBTQ+ choir Rainbow Voices, speeches by activists Andrew Moffat, Khekan Qureshi, Jill Nalder, and Peter Tatchell, and Pride regular drag queens Sandra London, Yshee Black, and many more.
Of course the real kick start to the event was the Pride Parade which left at noon on the Saturday from Victoria Square as usual. For the first time an accessible route was devised for those wishing to march who for various reasons couldn’t manage the lengthy route over uneven roads.
The parade included dozens of national and local charities and businesses. We loved the “Sassy Ferguson” tractor provided by Massey Ferguson, Agrespect, and Farmers Weekly, for “Out on the Farm” a new LGBTQ+ group. The city’s corporates were out en masse including The Alliance Network which brings together various firms’ LGBTQ+ groups, and individual firms such as PwC, DLA Piper, Gowling WLG, Wesleyan, Legal & General, HS2, Murphy, Greene King, Paragon, and Colmore Business District.
The region’s gay sports groups and supporters were kitted up including The Birmingham Swifts running club, Birmingham Bulls RFC, Birmingham Blaze FC, Coventry Corsairs RFC, Villa & Proud, and the organisation Football vs. Homophobia. Additionally Commonwealth Games 2022 Pride House were in attendance starting their run-in to next year’s Birmingham games where they’ll provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ athletes and supporters. Other community attendees included Out and About Midlands, InteGreat Theatre, Birmingham Fetish Men, Naz & Matt Foundation, several groups supporting specific ethnicities and People of Colour such as Persian LGBT, Journey Group, and Unmuted. And we can’t forget that Someone at the Door Samba bandled the parade noisily through the city’s streets as always!
There were many floats and walking groups from the gay villages’ watering holes including a reprise from extremely popular Eden Bar which is in physicality closed (though they managed to have a big presence at Pride, testament to the community support they have). Other venues in the parade included Glamorous, The Village, Nightingale, Sidewalk, The Fox.
There were so many wonderful acts across the six stages I can only do a great disservice by highlighting some we managed to catch and who we thought were stand out. Sadly Cheryl had to cancel due to a bereavement, but Sophie Ellis-Bextor went down a storm. We loved Lola Lasagna on the cabaret stage, and Black Box did an excellent set on Sunday afternoon on the main stage.
After so much time where our socialising has been limited it was simply a great joy to be able to share music and food, laughter and beer, with so many of our friends, old and new. Thanks to them all, and to the organisers for doing an excellent job.
And now, as is custom and practice, the photos……