Nottingham Pride Preview (2008).
Back in the not-so-distant days before civil partnerships, anti-discrimination legislation, the repeal of Section 28 and an equal age of consent, it was easy to understand the need for Pride festivals. Faced with so much inequality under the law, lesbians and gay men had plenty to shout about, and many battles to fight. But in these more enlightened times, is there really any purpose left in continuing the Pride tradition?
According to the organisers of this year’s Nottingham Pride, which takes place at the Arboretum tomorrow afternoon, the answer is an emphatic “Yes”.
Sadly, homophobic abuse and violence is still very much with us. In the year up to April 2008, 234 such incidents were reported in Nottinghamshire alone, with many more going unreported. For a large number of gay people, living their lives freely and openly is still a tough – and for some, an impossible – struggle.
In this context, a fun and friendly public get-together in the park becomes more than just an enjoyable day out. The political banners may have come down, the angry chants may have subsided – but in its own cheerfully low-key way, Nottingham Pride still has a powerful statement to make. It’s a day for the whole gay community to make itself visible, to come together as one, and to celebrate its diverse strengths.
While other, larger Pride events have gradually succumbed to the lure of heavy commercial sponsorship, turning themselves into little more than glorified pop festivals, Nottingham Pride has stuck closer to its original roots. What you’ll find at the Arboretum tomorrow afternoon will be nearer in spirit to a relaxed village fete than the sort of pumping, thumping, tops-off mayhem that some might have imagined. The event’s organisers are keen to point out that this is an inclusive, family-friendly event, and it is hoped that people will come along and support their friends, families and colleagues, whether or not they are gay themselves.
For most of the attendees, the festival is chance to catch up with old friends, to lounge around in the sunshine, to visit the odd stall or two, and to enjoy the six hours of entertainment which will be taking place on the park’s traditional bandstand. This year’s line-up includes a country band, an indie-rock band, an Abba tribute act, and even some bona fide pop stars: the boy band Billiam, whose latest single landed just outside the Top Twenty in June. Squeezed in amongst all this, the Lord Mayor of Nottingham will be addressing the crowds at 1:45pm.
Stalls will be provided by organisations such as Nottingham Switchboard (who are always keen to hear from potential new volunteers) and Healthy Gay Nottingham (who offer free health-related counselling for men). Nottinghamshire Police will be there, promoting their confidential telephone help line for homophobic incidents, and representatives from the County Council’s register office will be on hand, to help couples plan for their civil partnership ceremonies.
After the festival winds up at 6pm, the city’s regular cluster of gay venues will be packing in the punters for the rest of the night. The NG1 club (Lower Parliament Street) will be hosting a ten-hour marathon session, starting at 10pm and blasting through until 8am on Sunday morning. Not to be outdone, the New Foresters (St Ann’s Street) will be partying from 6pm until 5am. The Foresters will also be providing the beer tent (with cabaret and disco) at the festival itself.
In conjunction with this year’s Pride, a dedicated community radio station has been granted a seven-day broadcasting licence, hopefully with a view to applying for a more permanent licence in the future. Progress FM (87.7 MHz) has been on air since Monday of this week, with a 24-hour programme of live and pre-recorded shows. The station will be broadcasting live from the New Foresters tonight (11pm onwards), and live from the Arboretum on Saturday afternoon. Programmes can also be streamed directly from progressfm.co.uk.
Nottingham Pride takes place between noon and 6pm on Saturday at The Arboretum. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.nottinghampride.co.uk.