Jim Butler-Fleming, Director of Pride Support LTD.
What a time to be proud in our LGBTQ+ community here in Brighton. What would have been Brighton & Hove Pride weekend I decided to help some colleagues out by taking pictures of the usual ‘hot spots’, where people hang out during the festivities. As I was sat on the bus on the way into Kemptown I was anxious and nervous but as I came down Marine Parade, I became overwhelmingly surprised. I was expecting hoards of people with little social distancing, and MAN how wrong could I have been? I decided to stay on the bus until I got to the Old Steine to then walk around a little, wearing my Trans-Inclusive Pride flag facemask.
The same time last year saw the Pride Pleasure Gardens hosted there, with the Box Office and Welcome Centre on the same site. The queues were wrapped all around the entire gardens but moving quickly, but this year? A few very small groups of socially distanced people. Even walking up North Street and then down West Street towards the beach it truly felt like just a regular Saturday afternoon. This, of course, was a bittersweet feeling. Like many other people, Brighton & Hove Pride weekend is the highlight of my entire year, and something I have either travelled from further afield to until I recently moved back here again for over 20 years (on and off). My first being a far cry from where things are today (I worked my first Brighton & Hove Pride back in 2000 behind the Queens Arms bar!).
There were Facebook adverts for an ‘Unofficial Beach Party’ and as I walked along the main coast road back towards Kemptown I was forever glancing over the railings to see if I could see any sign of such a gathering. Thank everything that may or may not be holy (or cosmic, or maybe nothing at all, who knows) that was not the case. The occasional Pride flag being flown by groups of friends, some people walking along the prom with rainbow regalia but no masses of people not following social distancing guidelines.
Arriving back into Kemptown, my next stop was of course going to be St James’s Street and the area that would have hosted the Pride Village Party. Whilst I can’t say that the streets were empty, they were… different to what I had expected. Most venues had little or even no people (in some circumstances) congregating outside.
What made me proud that weekend was that we, as a community, recognised that whilst we would normally be protesting, marching and celebrating our diversity, we did not fall foul of social distancing guidelines – and more importantly gave no reason for any of the usual tabloid rags to write a ‘Look what the gays have done!’ article to headline the Sunday papers.