Mike Atkinson

Nottinghamshire Pride 2011

Posted in Nottingham Post by Mike A on August 1, 2011

A shorter version of this review appeared in the Nottingham Post.

Sunshine and smiles were the order of the day at the Forest Recreation Ground on Saturday afternoon, as the city’s annual Pride festival – now renamed Nottinghamshire Pride, to encompass the whole county – drew thousands for eight hours of good-natured celebration.

The day began with a march from the Old Market Square to the Forest, led by a marching band and joined by the Lord Mayor and the chairman of the County Council.  The marchers entered a huge site, which divided into four main areas: a main stage with bar tents, a smaller acoustic stage, a fun fair and a “village green”, bordered by stalls from small businesses and community organisations.

This was the second Pride to be held at the Forest, as the sheer size of the event meant that it had outgrown its traditional home at the Arboretum.  And despite the misgivings of some, who missed the old “village fete” atmosphere, the decision to move was fully justified, giving everyone a chance to spread out and enjoy the full range of activities.

The theme of the festival of was “celebrating diversity”, and this was reflected in the mix of people, who spanned all ages, backgrounds and sexualities.  Many families were in attendance – there were prams and pushchairs everywhere – and the mostly lesbian and gay crowd mingled happily with their “straight” friends and supporters.  “It’s good to see so many straight people here”, quipped one of the drag queen comperes on the main stage, “as they get to see what real women look like!”

An equally diverse range of performers provided the day’s entertainment.  On the main stage, you never quite knew what was coming next: a raucous indie band one minute, a troupe of lip-synching drag queens the next.  In the comedy tent, an all-female line-up brought the laughs throughout the day.  And over at the more relaxed acoustic stage, a fine array of local talent included up-and-coming singer Nina Smith duetting with beatboxer Motormouf, the singer-songwriter Gallery 47, and the “gypsy jazz” ensemble Maniere des Bohemiens.

The crowds gathered at the end of the day for the hitmaking dance duo Booty Luv, who were preceded by an extraordinary performance from former X Factor contestant Ruth Lorenzo.  Scarcely recognisable from her television days, Lorenzo has transformed into a raunchy rock chick, all heaving cleavage and black-stockinged swagger, with a lung power of such force that you could probably have heard her in Arnold.  Her covers of rock classics such as Highway To Hell and Sweet Child Of Mine went down a storm, providing a memorable climax to the proceedings.

Now that almost all of the gay community’s battles for equality have been won, the campaigning political edge that characterised the Pride festivals of old has inevitably slipped away.  In its place, a new mood of confident celebration has emerged.  Pride has become a reflection of an established, integrated community at ease with itself, welcoming all well-wishers to the party, and more ready than ever to let its hair down and have a great time.

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