Saturday, 1 September 2012

When was the first Brighton Pride?

Every year it irritates me, the way people are so slapdash about the history of Brighton Pride. This year, the papers are full of a "20th anniversary" story, which is odd, because the current run of Pride events in Brighton began in 1991, 21 years ago. I remember it well. I was there. I helped to organise it.

I know this makes me sound like a mad old aunt in the corner at Christmas, making nitpicking criticisms of other people’s family stories. Maybe that’s who I am, now.

I haven’t been to Pride for a few years now. It’s not really a fun family event for us and our kids. I don’t enjoy getting pissed in the daytime very much. I find the overwhelming commercialism hard to stomach. We might have gone down to watch the parade this year, but family commitments prevented it. As it turned out, I’m quite glad I wasn’t there to see the Queers against the Cuts contingent subjected to heavy-handed policing and treated like troublemakers by the parade organisers, while commercial firms like EDF Energy, Easyjet and Mastercard are welcomed with open arms.

Why does it bother me if people get the dates wrong? I think it’s because Brighton Pride in 1991 is the radical political root of the commercial tourism-fest celebrated today by the Argus, Brighton & Hove City Council and the Conservative Party.

By 1991, we had been campaigning against Section 28 for 3 years. We were tired, still angry, and proud of what we’d achieved. We hadn’t stopped Section 28 from becoming law, but we had begun to build a community that could lessen its pernicious effects.

We had spoken out about homophobia in schools. We had protested about the lacklustre police response to queerbashing. We had publicly remembered and mourned our dead. We had defined family our own way, declaring our relationships with lovers, friends and children to be as real as anyone else’s, whatever the law said about it.

That community defiance was what we were celebrating in 1991. Joining the Pride march was not a vote-winner in those days. There was no eight-page spread in the Argus. Hell, even the gay clubs didn’t join in. We didn’t have sponsorship money or council funding, we just had each other to rely on.

We had also begun to take our history seriously; the campaign against Section 28 spawned the wonderful Brighton Ourstory project. One of the highlights of Pride in 1991 was a walking tour of queer history in the city, led by Ourstory founder Tom Sargant. We knew that there had been a Pride parade in Brighton in 1973, but that the momentum had been lost and there had been no local Pride events since.

The Brighton Pride events in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 were organised largely by political activists who had been closely involved in the campaign against Section 28. In 1993, after the previous year’s Preston Park event had over-reached itself and gone bust, Pride was coordinated by just two people, who thought it was important to keep the idea alive, to prevent the flame going out for another 20 years. I know this for sure. I was one of those two people.

I know things have changed. I’m not saying I want to turn the clock back. I’m happy that people can get married (if that’s what they want to do) and be out in the police force and win votes by supporting equality.

I guess all I’m saying is, let’s not forget how we got from there to here. Let’s not pretend that attitudes have changed by magic. Brighton Pride started in 1991 with a demo, not in 1992 with a piss-up. When it took some courage to join the Pride march in solidarity with LGBT people, many of the straight people who stood alongside us were socialists, like Queers against the Cuts and their supporters. They have every right to march in the parade now.


Nicole said...

Thanks for this great piece. As a member of the group I was horrified by the lies, bullying and scare-mongering undertaken by both Pride and the police, and at being surrounded by four police horses at one point. However, I would be careful defining us all with the term 'socialist' - although many probably are, it's not how I define myself.

Anonymous said...


Your sad little group of ‘rent a thug’ protesters where heard to be abusive by the groups around you at set up and a formal complaint was made. I notice that your group also included people from ban eco, the campaign for squatters rights and the camp in a field to piss off brighton brigade – oh and most funnily an ex worker for Pride who was paid to help organise last years parade.

Then when you dont get your own way you stamp your collective feet, throw a tantrum and call your MP, Peter Tatchell and the Argus to moan and groan – how very sad.

Your inaccurate reports (blatant lies) are objectionable at best and certainly do not represent Brighton Pride or the gay rights movement.

Then when you do the typical emotional blackmail bulls*it you get no sympathy.

You and your sorry bunch of thugs where a travesty of humanity and certainly should be banned from any further involvement in Pride.

Sadly you and your crusty comrades will probably now have another tantrum and throw even more abuse around to try and justify your pathetic attempts at political campaigning.

Dani said...

Apologies, Nicole. I shouldn't have assumed everyone in the group was a socialist. Hope you managed to enjoy some of the day, despite the attempted censorship and overbearing police presence.

Sarak Pickett said...

As one of those people who was involved in the Section 28 campaign and the Pride march in 1991 I think this is a brilliant artcle. I was watching the march waiting for the queers against the cuts section and was amazed when the whole march went by including easy jet, barclays etc and right at the end flanked by police came the queers against the cuts. Its sad that there was such heavy handedness by the police and march orgamisers.

Forty Shades Of Grey said...

Thanks for this post. I was with QuAC too, and I'm not sure what on earth 'Anonymous' is talking about, the only rent-a-thugs I saw were the 25 police officers, 4 mounted police, riot van and police car surrounding people who'd done nothing but turned up to an event they'd paid to be on with unoffensive placards.

So, Anonymous, could you tell us which group we were supposedly 'abusive' to? The NUT, who we were swapping accessories with, or the cabaret bus who were blaring music (how would they have heard?).

You're a sad liar who I shouldn't give the time of day to, but I'm really curious as to where you got your 'facts' from. Can you supply evidence of 'thuggery' by anyone who was there?

Of course you can't, because you're pulling so much rubbish out of your backside that you might as well be a proctologist.

Anna said...

Spot on. I was in the group. We had formally registered like everyone else. Sad that people need reminding that rights were long-fought for and not dropped from the sky, but that's capitalism for you. And I am a Socialist, can't speak for everyone

Roland said...

Thanks for this really informative piece. I was with the QuAC group, and I can't help but wonder who the heroic 'anonymous' is, as this seems like a made up account, and I am not aware of any formal complaint. I am not aware of anyone among us being abusive to stewards, We were all sat and stood patiently waiting for the event to start when stewards, and one in particular, became very verbally aggressive to our organiser, it was only at this point that any of the rest of the group intervened, and after a sustained attack that we raised our voices at all

On a seperate point, I do think there is a danger of us being seen to attack people who come to Pride for 'non-political' reasons - to have the freedom to party and celebrate freedom of sexuality is of itself a political act, whether deliberately political or or not. The benefit of the struggle you describe is that we have now reached the point were open partying is possible and enjoyed by everyone. The purpose of groups like Queers against Cuts being part of it, as well as raising key current issues, is to maintain a link to overt politics.
My account of how we were treated is here:

Nicole said...

Anonymous (Witness) - kindly do not call me a liar, or a thug or any names. Your aggressive attitude only serves to prove our point of who is being mistreated and who isn't. As for Peter and Caroline - I think you will find they approached us. I can see that the fact we gained support from such notable people has upset you, because it flatlines yours perspective and reinforces ours.

Nicole said...

Dani - thank you.