Brighton is a town that I love. Since my first visit in 2010, I have travelled there on an almost annual basis. The seaside atmosphere, the faded grandeur, the alternative vibe, the vegan shoe shops, the markets, the Pier with its haunted hotel. And the gays. I’d heard tales of the preponderance of homosexuals in the town.
So when a friend asked me whether I was interested in attending Brighton Pride this year, my reply was in the affirmative. I’d never attended this annual party previously. It was about time (Full disclosure here – I went to Brighton for Pride in 2012. Its date always coincided with the date of Amsterdam Pride – the first weekend in August. Thinking I ought to shake things up I booked a weekend in Brighton on the only year in history that they chose a different weekend for the celebration. I was not going to repeat that mistake this time. I googled the date in advance of booking the flight.)
My fellow traveller took charge of finding the accommodation.
After work on Friday, I got a lift from a colleague to the airport for my 17.35 Aer Lingus flight (it was serendipity that I chose Aer Lingus when booking, six weeks ago, rather than Ryanair. I dodged that pilots’ strike).
Like a well oiled machine my trip to the guest house went smoothly. I even took the bus, rather than a taxi, to the leafy, residential suburb of Woodingdean (on a regular weekend we’d have remained in the centre, on Pride weekend that luxury was not available to us). In a sense we were lucky to have found a room at all – the town seemed fully booked. We would simply have to make do with the grotty double bed in the family home, with the parents and four children (two of whom were eight week old twins). I stood in front of my friend as we were checking in. Why I don’t know. The slogan ‘PWR BTTM’ emblazoned on his vest was visible from space.
The first night we had tapas in La Vendimia on St. James’s Street before heading to Legends Bar for a few sociables.
The following morning we politely declined breakfast with the family and made our way to Café Aldo where we were to meet another friend, venturing down from London. After a full English breakfast (is the lack of sausage what differentiates a full English from a full Irish breakfast I wonder?) we ventured outside. It was midday but already the town was thronged. My friend who had travelled down told us that the train from London was full from the very first stop.
We watched some of the parade passing. The sound of the gay national anthem ‘Believe’ by Cher, reassured me that this was indeed the Pride Parade. The crowds of people were a bit overwhelming. When we reached the final destination for the après-parade party, I felt relieved. Crowd make me uncomfortable The queues to enter Preston Park were long and winding.
Inside the grounds there was a party atmosphere. Various tents with different types of entertainment filled quickly. Stalls selling various foods and drinks were mobbed. Funfair rides were busy. And the huge stage featured various live music acts and comedians. Pixie Lott performed. Apparently I saw her performing live at Manchester Pride last year. I have absolutely no recollection of ever seeing her previously. This is related, I suspect, to her mouse-like stage presence and charisma. She may be a good recording artist but she is not a good live act. The headline act for the day was a certain Miss Britney Spears – woman will oodles of stage presence and charisma who has not sung a live note in decades.
We ended our evening back in town in the cordoned off seafront. My friend was lucky to make it back to London as the train station was shut because of overcrowding.
What I have learned from Brighton Pride is that sometimes a party can be too big. Media reports claimed that there were 500,000 revellers at the party. In a town of 250,000 that is too much. It was unpleasantly crowded. A city like London can absorb these numbers. Brighton can’t. It looked like Armageddon walking back from the park to the seafront.
Another thing that I have learned over the weekend is how mainstream tattoos have become. Having an arm or a leg covered in a sleeve of tattoos is these days like a badge of conformity. Sometimes they can be pretty. Oftentimes they are ugly and unappealing. To each their own for sure, but if everybody else is doing it, then why should you? If I was a real rebel I would not have had my shoulder tattooed when I was twenty-five.
On Sunday my other friend went home, so I took a stroll through Hove in the thirty degree heat. My destination was a wine bar and delicatessen called ‘Fourth and Church’ on the corner of Church Road and Fourth Avenue. Despite my occasional attempts at classiness, wine-bars do not usually feature in my plans. This wine-bar is different as a blood relative works there, and I’d made plans to visit him – having solemnly promised not to order a boiled egg. I had a delicious lunch of bread and mackerel, washed down with an Aperol Spritz. Highly refreshing.
After lunch, we gave each other an awkward Murphy hug, and I made my way to the station.