I have never been to Brighton Pride before. I had no idea what to expect. In Brighton, I’ve learnt to always expect the unexpected…and then some.
I’ve always loved Brighton because it’s simply bonkers. Off its rocker. It’s a crazy, colourful, camp city which welcomes everyone with a warm fuzzy hug. Pride is a celebration of Brighton’s camp history, whilst also embracing the more serious issues threatening the large LGBT community both in Brighton and across the globe.
As the Gay Capital of Europe, all eyes turn to Brighton during Pride, and the crowds flock in their thousands to a party that doesn’t disappoint.
We joined the masses following the infamous parade which winds itself around the city before heading to nearby Preston Park. As the trains had been absolutely heaving, and consequently delayed, we missed the majority of the bigger floats. This bunch bringing up the rear of the parade were still in high spirits, dancing along to blaring gay anthems.
The buildings lining the parade route were decked out in full rainbow-coloured regalia and people sat drinking and dancing with their neighbours. There was a real carnival atmosphere.
Our friends live on the fringe of Preston Park so we went to kick off the festivities there. We had paid the hefty £20 for entrance into the park but annoyingly you weren’t allowed to re-enter. This meant we had to get all the cheap booze we had down us before being charged an arm ‘n’ a leg for a pint inside the park.
Oh, and to lather ourselves in the obligatory glitter and pride-themed face paint of course!
Suitably in the party mood, we headed to the park which had been taken over and turned into a mini festival site.
People skipped around, smeared in face-paint and waving pride flags. The atmosphere was joyful and drunken.
The site was dotted with lots of tents and stages, a lot more than I had been expecting. There was a Cabaret Tent, Boys Dance Tent, Girls Dance Tent, a Main Stage and lots of smaller ones.
We obviously made a bee-line for the cabaret tent. Who wouldn’t on Pride?!
The acts were flirty and faaaaabulous. Their costumes were incredible and they all had decent warbling voices!
There’s only so many renditions of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ you can do before you need to top up on the beers. So, forking out a painful £4.30 for a pint (it could have been worse), we basked in the warm weather, and did some people watching.
People watching is THE best pride activity and one that doesn’t cost a penny.
I was cautious not to take too many pictures, in case I was caught or ended up offending someone. But oh.my.god, some of the Pride ‘outfits’ will be forever burnt into my retinas. Pride is one of the very few places where people won’t raise an eyebrow at nipples covered only by black tape or thongs in the place of trousers.
I suppose it was a hot day…
Jokes aside, it was strangely heart-warming to see everyone and anyone walk around and simply feel comfortable and accepted in their own skin. If you want to wear a gimp suit, fine! A guy in a pink tutu, great! Itsy bitsy hotpants, they look great on you!
As the evening drew in, we headed to the main stage to enjoy some of the bigger named acts. We caught the end of Blue’s measly 15 minute set, witnessing the monstrosity of their new euro-pop singles. You should have let it go after ‘All-Rise’ boys, it wasn’t going to get much better than that.
There were a couple of filler acts with some fantastically camp dancers before Katy B hit the stage. She was great and whipped the crowd up in a frenzy. Shirts were ripped off and conga lines started as the sun began to dip below the horizon.
When Katy B signed off after a triumphant set, we were ready to head back. The day might have been over but the night had yet to begin.
Topping up on the beers, we set off into Brighton. Pride is an all day all night party. Revellers spill onto the seafront, gathering at the outdoor street parties which stretch as far as the eye can see. It was reminiscent of the Berlin May Day celebrations I had enjoyed so much. (Read about that here).
Entrance to these parties is around £15 and the streets are cordoned off with railings and stewards, keeping the partying contained. It’s a shame that Pride has become some a commercial money-driven day.
Instead we decided to head to Mesmerist a 1950s style bar which plays old fashioned tunes and serves up killer cocktails. (Check out their Facebook page here). Unlike the increasingly rowdy crowd at the seafront, everyone here was so relaxed and just wanted to have a good time wriggling around to some 1950s music.
Entrance was free and the bouncers were nice! (Such a shock for Brighton). They cracked jokes with the members of the queue and waved us in with a cheery smile. The cocktails were pretty expensive, coming to over £6 each. But they were so worth it. The bartenders were obviously passionate about mixology and came up with some amazingly flamboyant creations.
One lethal cocktail was all it took to push us over the edge so we headed back to Preston Park, wading through litter and bodily fluids. It had been an exhausting and expensive pride but also everything I’d hoped it would be.
I just hope that the spirit of pride and all it stands for and celebrates is able to resonate everywhere and for evermore. Not just on one day in Brighton.
What are the Gay Pride events like in your area? Leave me a comment and let me know!