Kate Wildblood reflects on Brighton Pride’s forthcoming 25th anniversary celebrations and the exciting new community history project BrightonPride25.
IN 1991 we were years away from equality. There was no equal age of consent, we couldn’t serve in the armed forces or adopt, civil partnership and same-sex marriage were decades away and we were protesting against Section 28, government legislation that banned local authorities from promoting homosexuality and “teaching the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. And yet we weren’t pretending. Our pride in our sexuality was very real for us and about to become an important part of LGBT life in our city.
The first Brighton Gay Pride took place on Saturday July 7, 1973 with a march from Norfolk Square to the Ship Hotel, followed by a Gay Dance at the Royal Albion Hotel and a Gay Picnic on the beach on the Sunday. But it wasn’t until 1991 that the Brighton Pride we know today began.
One of the organisers, Dani Ahrens, recalls its protest-fuelled beginnings. “We (Brighton Area Action against Section 28) had been organising an annual march from Hove Town Hall to Brighton Town Hall for a few years, at first (in 1988) to protest at the passage of Section 28 into law, and then to mark the anniversary of that event. By 1991, we felt that the focus on Section 28 didn’t really fit what we had created. Our resistance to this law, and its effects, had built a community that was strong, angry, and full of creativity. We wanted to move forward and claim our rightful place in the city, not continue to look back and identify ourselves with an attack on us”.
Those four days of Pride in 1991, with its creative and inclusive mix of protest, film, art, history, live music, cabaret, clubbing and a Pink Picnic at Preston Park, announced to the city that Brighton Pride was here to stay.
Alf Le Flohic remembers what it brought to the city’s LGBT community. “There was a new sense of direction – we may have failed to stop Section 28, but we were determined to reclaim the one thing that law was supposed to stop us having: pride in being lesbian and gay people”.
BrightonPride25 will tell the story of our Pride through main-stage videos in Preston Park and public installations within the city.
Brighton Pride Managing Director Paul Kemp said: “As we reach this milestone anniversary of Pride in our city, the BrightonPride25 project hopes to celebrate our shared history and recognise the trailblazers and community organisations, the brave campaigners, activists, artists, club promoters, performers and Pride-goers who have been part of shaping the Pride movement in Brighton and Hove over a quarter of a century. We believe passionately that Pride should have purpose. Campaigning to highlight global LGBT communities and community fundraising is at the cornerstone of everything Pride represents and we hope BrightonPride25 will continue to reinforce this message. We’re extremely grateful to Alf Le Flohic and Kate Wildblood for agreeing to work with Pride on this exciting community project.”
“I’m so proud that my adopted home town has kept the Pride flag flying for so many years,” said Alf about Pride’s 25th anniversary. “The UK has come a long way but there are still global bullies who would love to turn the clock back on our human rights. Every Pride has helped someone to accept who they are and know they are loved for it. Brighton has played a solid part in all that change and it’s time to celebrate what we have all achieved. It’s really exciting to be a part of this project, celebrating the dedicated politicos, performers and party-goers who have made Brighton Pride the unique celebration of love and liberation that it is today.”
Since 1991 I’ve watched Brighton Pride blossom by campaigning, celebrating and, most importantly, connecting communities. It brings so many aspects of our city together – charitable, voluntary, political, business, allowing us to achieve so much together. From its glitter to its grit, from the partying to the fundraising, Brighton Pride has become the most fabulous jewel in Brighton’s crown and the BrightonPride25 project will enable us to remember how we got here and fire us up as we move forward.
From those early days of Queer on the Pier and days out on The Level to the park life of Preston Park and campaigning for the Freedom to Live, Brighton Pride has a history worth knowing and a history we should all be proud of.
• Play your part in BrightonPride25 and contribute your memories, photos and footage by uploading your photos and adding your memories via Twitter: @PrideBrighton #brightonpride25
• or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• or tag #BrightonPride25 on the Pride Instagram @brightonprideofficial