Nottingham Pride 2009
Interview by Deborah Taylor
Pride plays a huge part in the Gay Rights calendar. Not just London Pride, but in regional cities too. Michelle Varney reveals what lies in store at Nottingham Pride 2009!
Nottingham Pride - 25 July 2009
What's going on with Pride this year? Is there anything new happening?
Oh yes, certainly! This time, for the first time EVER at Nottingham, we have a Nottingham Pride March through the streets and ending up at the Arboretum venue in time for the start. It promises to be an easy-ish walk with banners, bands and hopefully lots of fun entertainment on the way. (If any Mookies want to join in on our 'March With Pride' then be at the Pavillion on the Forest Recreation Ground for 11am).
And secondly, we have a new event at Pride of which we're rather proud. (No real pun intended there...)We have a 'Speakers Corner' event, away from the main stage where every hour we'll have a guest speaker giving a talk of their chosing but with a loose political theme. They'll give their speech and then there'll be a brief Q & A afterwards. It starts at 1pm and then at the top of the bill at 5pm we have.... (wait for drum roll).... TOM ROBINSON himself!
Broadcaster, songwriter and veteran queer activist Tom Robinson will be in conversation with Joseph Galliano, the editor of Gay Times, in an event called '40 Years After Stonewall'.
It's a real coup to get both of them there and we feel very honoured that they will be appearing this year.
Do you have to be gay to attend Pride? Or does it just help?
Well it's a free outdoor event so anyone can come along anyway but as well as the LGBT community of all persuasions, we normally get a lot of supporters - family, friends and colleagues. My parents are coming - as they did last year and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Now that being gay is becoming more acceptable, do you think Pride is still a strong political statement? Or has it become more a celebration of the gay lifestyle? Why is Pride so important?
There are two thoughts on this question. One is that with the rise of high-profile gay celebrities and couples and with civil partnerships accepted, with gay rights being acknowledged, homophobic crimes being taken seriously then the work is done and it IS just a celebration of how far we've come in our fight to be recognised as contributing members of the community.
But then I think, there are STILL homophobic attacks, homophobia is rife in schools and the military, 'gay' is being used as a derogatory comment amongst the young (ie: 'that's so gay') and some younger members of the LGBT community have no realisation of what it meant being gay in previous years. There's the rise of the Christian Right in the US and Proposition 8, hard-line religous extremists in the UK, Arab, Islamic and African countries where homosexuality is banned and I KNOW that the political movement needs to be paramount still. Think of the people in the past who were imprisioned for 'unnatural acts', the people who were killed or attacked for kissing their boyfriend or holding their girlfriends hand in public. We cannot forget such times and, like women must ALWAYS vote to recognise their grandmothers' struggle to get the right for themselves, I think that there is a strong need for political statement. I'd like to see Gay History taught in schools alongside the Industrial revolution, civil rights and the Womens movement of the 70's. We've come a long way baby, but people should NOT forget how un-enlightened the world was, to make sure it can't happen again.
With London Pride being such a huge event, how important are the regional Prides?
London Pride is a great event but it has really gone the way of being corporate, sponsored and all about being a niche marketing event to a certain demographic. Not that it's wrong, just that it's the Pride equivalent of the Premiership clubs. Local ones are more like your sunday morning five-a-side teams, they're dedicated, it's all about the fun and the joy of participating with your friends in your home town with local supporters. And really, your town, your local Pride Event is about YOUR area, about the trials and tribulations of YOUR local LGBT community. Here in Nottingham we have no real idea about the London issues unless it's reported in the paper but here we know about a local Lesbian couple being hassled in the neighbourhood or about a gay bar being pressurised to close early. Of course we should have awareness of the wider world but - going back to political statement here - it's a case of 'Think Global, Act Local'.
I know of some people who only felt comfortable expressing their sexuality in London because they didn't KNOW there were support groups, clubs, bars, like-minded people in their own area. But once they visited their Local Pride they were much more comfortable in their home town, knowing they weren't 'the only gay in the village'. You may feel isolated but with the camaraderie of your local Pride support groups, life gets easier. Imagine seeing your favourite band in your local venue - you'll see a lot of familar faces you've seen around town but had no idea they shared your interest.
If you REALLY can't get your head around a local Pride event think of it as a sexed-village fete - you'll be off to London to see something professional, well-ordered event but in the meantime you'll be spending your money where and how it matters most - for the development of your community allowing you to be Out and Proud at home.
Is there any adverse reaction to Pride in Nottingham?
Not really, we have a police presence at the Arboretum but just as there would be at any large event. Nottingham has the 7th largest LGBT community in the UK so we're quite chilled and relaxed. However, saying that, there was one incident of a homophobic attack last year, but the person was arrested and charged, thus proving that it's taken seriously and not brushed away.
Have you any advice for any Mooks attending Pride this year?
It lasts from 12 - 6pm so pace yourself! It's in a park so maybe those stillies are not the best thing for the grass. And please, please dress beautifully - we don't want the Drag-queens to take all the glamour do we?
Seriously, sunscreen is a must if you're going to be out in the sun all afternoon and PLEASE make a donation. Nottingham Pride is a charity and is entirely self-funded. The committee give their time and talent for free and it takes ALL BLOODY YEAR to beg for money. We'd like it to continue in future years. And why not come and say hello if you see me? Or better still, buy me a drink - I'll have been up and about since the early hours and will need it!
For any Mooks who can't make Nottingham Pride, or don't have a regional Pride in their area, do you have any advice for how to organise their own local Pride?
Don't take no for an answer. Get a team you can rely on, see what funding is available, knock on doors, badger companies and individuals for money to stage it and be prepared and arrange for the worst - up to and including torrential rain and attacks of flying monkeys and you'll be ready to cope with anything. But also, have a very thick skin and leave your ego behind. You're doing it for the community, not for self gain.
Pride is an international event. Where do you think it will go next?
Frankly darling, at the moment, I can't see beyond THIS year's festival but I'd like to think we can cope with anything and take any challenge to move it on. So, maybe next year on Mars?