I awoke like a summer daisy and bounded to the shower. I was a man on a mission. I was going to my inaugural Limerick Gay Pride.
I met my friend outside Todd’s (which has been cruelly renamed as Brown Thomas) at one o’clock, and we repaired to Olio and Farina’s on Little Catherine Street for a pre-Pride coffee. It was a sensible decision. The coffee was tasty. As I refreshed myself afterwards, I remembered my experience in Banba’s Coffee in Donegal last weekend. I did not pull the red emergency string out of of a sense of curiosity this time. I am open to learning.
The parade assembled outside the City Hall before the launch. We were there on time. I was wearing a bright pink t-shirt and the rainbow garland I had acquired at Dublin Pride some weeks earlier.
I was nervous. I am out and proud. Living it large. All cheers for queers is the manner in which I try to live my life. But this is Limerick. This is my hometown. This is the place I fled from, as a feckless youth. Desperate for a new exciting life. This is my city. These are my people. What if they were as mean and unwelcoming, as I had imagined they would be, more than twenty years earlier? What if my old school chums would assemble en masse and shriek ‘Murphy, you dirty queer’ at me?
I knew I was being delusional. Limerick is a friendly place, embedded in the modern world. This is my issue. It is not Limerick’s. Oh, but the nerves.
Shoulderpads back. Head high. I was on a stroll around Limerick this afternoon with the glamour pack.
The sound of the gay lullaby ‘Believe’ by Cher soothed my nerves as we started. Concentrate on the music, Murphy. Ignore the worry. You are in good company. It’s a day for celebration. You are no longer sixteen and haunted. This is your town too.
Do you belieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve?
Walking up O’Connell Street was rather emotional. I couldn’t comprehend it. I’ve been to many Prides in my life – Amsterdam, Dublin, Budapest, Manchester, Brighton… I went on my first Pride twenty years ago in Dublin, when it was still a very small festival with only a thousand participants. I was quite the warrior back then. My nerves were never quite this shredded before though.
I looked around The crowds on the streets watching, were cheering. The flags were waving. All was good.
It was joyous.
The participants finished the parade in the gardens of the Hunt Museum, where the beer flowed, the music played and the people danced under the marquee.
I gasped at the talent of people I knew – some who could have substituted for Jennifer Warnes in ‘The time of my life’ on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. I took some pictures of the river. And I had a few beers. It felt magical. Friendly, welcoming, unpretentious. The compere was a London drag queen (who has links to Shannon allegedly) called Shyanne O’Shea, who was a fun compere. To complement her glamour, she had a great singing voice and a vulgar sense of humour. Yep – I can deal with that.
As I felt I was approaching an overdose of gay music – even I have limits in terms of the quantity of Madonna, Kylie, and Cher music I can consume – we decided to recede to a restaurant for nourishment.
To the Texas Steak Out. I ate a non-vegetarian meal. With no regrets.
Afterwards to Strokers – the bar that was christened as such, long before it became a haunt for fabulous deviants.
My evening ended in Dolan’s Warehouse – Limerick’s best live music venue where a Finnish singer named Saara Alto was the top billed act. I had never heard of her. Apparently she was runner up in the X Factor recently.
As an honorary Finnish person – with sordid links to the Finnish hotel in Amsterdam, I just appreciated the Finnishness of it all.
Limerick Pride was intense. A whirlwind of emotion, fear, excitement, exhilaration, and wonder. The best Pride I have ever been to – and I have been to many.
My return next year is imminent.