Brighton Pride interview

August 2nd sees the return of Brighton pride, the theme this year being “freedom to live”.

With Uganda recently passing a law which makes being gay or “promoting the gay lifestyle” punishable by death and the devastating anti gay situation in Russia, highlighted earlier this year by the Sochi games, this theme seems to be delivering a message. It’s a lot more serious and topical than past themes which have included “gay icons” and “The seaside”.

Pride as we know it began back in the 1960s following the “stonewall riots”. Following police raids on gay bars in New York gay men began to fight back. On 28th June 1969, a group of LGBT people started a riot after police raided The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar at 43 Christopher Street, New York City.

Sylvia Rivera, a transgender rights activist and founding member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance, is credited by many as the first to actually strike back at the police and, in so doing, spark the rebellion. Further protests and rioting continued for several nights following the raid.

A series of disparaging articles about the LGBT community led to sixty members of the Gay Liberation Front and Society for Individual Rights staging a protest outside the offices of the San Francisco Examiner on 31st October.

The peaceful event soon turned violent after staff at the paper poured printer ink onto the protesters below. The activists then smeared the paint all over the city, writing ‘Gay Power’ and other slogans on the building walls, stamping their ink covered handprint on buildings throughout downtown San Francisco resulting in “one of the most visible demonstrations of gay power”.

Although it was a very violent time it was also very well publicized which led to people seeing others willing to fight back. This event led to an anniversary march every year to commemorate the revolutionary time. Other countries around the world began to hold their own marches.

Pride has graced our own streets annually since 1991 with a parade, street party’s, beach parties and a festival in Preston Park which is expected to attract 35,000 people. The day offers all LGBT members over the country the opportunity to be in a safe environment, free to express themselves however they see fit.

Has pride been reduced to a simple party weekend for all or are the morals and fighting spirit still visible? I spoke with the organisers of this years pride to ask them some questions about the changing nature of Brighton pride and how the work done at pride helps everyone.

 

How many people do you expect to turn out this year?

We are expecting over 160,000 spectators and participants for the Pride Community Parade The World’s A Disco and over 35,000 for the Pride Festival in Preston Park.

Have you seen a change in the types of people that attend Pride? Pride has become a more diverse event, reflecting all aspects of the LGBTQ community as well as our supporters and friends. It is a truly Brighton event and we are so thrilled to have been embraced by our city.

How do you think Pride helps LGBT members locally and internationally?

Through the Rainbow Fund Brighton Pride supports local LGBT & HIV charities and organisations that support and change the lives of those living in our city. Organisations including Mind Out, The Clare Project, GEMS and Peer Action directly benefit from every Pride event be it the Rainbow Run, The Village Street Party, Brighton Pride Arts& Film Festival, Doggie Pride or the Pride Festival in Preston Park.

Why did you decide to start the arts festival last year?

2013 was a groundbreaking year for Pride with over 20 umbrella events contributing to the first Pride Arts and Film festival. Conceived by artist Sean Chapman, the Festival aims encompass each and every aspect of our vibrant artist community from the arts to the dance, from performance to film and show another side to LGBTQ life in Brighton and Hove.

What are you hoping to get out of the arts events this year?

With this years Freedom to live campaign we really would love to see even more LGBT artists getting involved and helping us develop the cultural offering. We thrilled that Hizze Fletcher has agreed to come on board again with Pride to produce the Pride Arts exhibition at the Jubilee Library, which was one of the keystone events last year.

How do you think the arts are an expression of the LGBT community?

Hizze Fletcher quote – “Brighton is a tremendously creative town and amongst the LGBT community there are some incredible artists. It’s a matter of course that the creative community would want to be involved in Pride in some way. There is a real need to have some arts culture alongside the party”

Are there any artists or bands you think aren’t to be missed?

There are so many fabulous artists involved this year it would be unfair of us to name just one or two as favourites. Needless to say whatever your taste in music Pride will deliver a many proud goose bump moments for everyone in the park.

How effective has the strategy to charge admission been in regards to your ability to fundraise?

In 2012, Pride’s events generated £31,000 for local LGBT and HIV good causes in the city. Pride 2013 smashed our fundraising target, raising over £34,000 for the Rainbow Fund & our local LGBT community groups. Every ticket bought, every Pride supporting party, every proud business sponsor, every fundraising event, every donation, indeed every person makes a difference. We’re encouraging everyone to join us in making Brighton & Hove Pride 2014 the best it’s ever been, fabulous, proud and with a purpose like no other.

How important is it that you raise money for pride through the arts festival

The arts festival is a vital addition to our fundraising activities. Last year’s Icon Exhibition held an auction of rare posters donated by The Keith Haring Foundation in New York City which raised over £1300 for The Rainbow Fund. A further £600 was donated to Pride via art sales and the private view event and was used to benefit the LGBT community in Brighton.

By Liz Stead

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