Pride Vibes 2017: Birmingham Pride

Samathy from Stories by Samathy on Medium

Marching in Birmingham’s Parade

Pride Vibes: As a photographer for Gay Pride Pics, I see lots of Prides across the UK every year. Each Pride has a different feel. This series will describe what each Pride was like and what the vibe of the pride was like.

The entire series is my opinion and mine only. Take it as you will. Note that this opinion comes from a 20 something extroverted transwoman who is herself a pride organiser.

I’m still working out what this series is going to be like. Bear with me.

Next: Coventry Pride
Previous: Exeter Pride

Birmingham Pride is the biggest Pride in West Midlands. Its one of the biggest in the UK too, competing directly with the likes of Manchester, London and Brighton.
It draws a totally different crowd to that of smaller, community Prides like Exeter, Coventry and Harrogate, for example.

Birmingham Pride is a very extravagant Pride, with costs in the range of several £100,000's.

Birmingham’s parade featured big companies.

Birmingham’s Parade is a huge affair. It features 10s of organisations from big corporate companies like Asda and Virgin to charities like Birmingham LGBT and Stonewall.
Birmingham’s parade also features a lot of Students, given that each one of its Universities were represented there.

Christians and other religious organisations were represented.

Despite the size of the parade through Birmingham, everyone who walked in it was with some kind of organisation. Everyone was there to represent someone.
Like most bigger pride parades, with Birmingham you’re required to register your marching group and identify roughly how many people are walking with you.
Such a practice prevents the more organic ‘marching for pride’ that you get with smaller Parades.

The result is a parade that features a lot more older people associated with their companies and organisations. Which is great for seeing just how many companies support the Pride movement, but not great if you simply want to join in the march and stand up for what you believe in.

Birmingham Pride does however, feature protesting groups.
There were several groups chanting in protest of current issues.
Stand out groups included a several religious groups, Out in the UK (LGBT+ Asylum seekers), and of course Black Lives Matter.

It was great that Birmingham’s pride march supports protesting groups and is clearly in favour of providing the platform for Pride as A Protest.
It really felt like Birmingham Pride’s parade is a good balance of Pride as a celebration and show of big society support and Pride as a Protest march aimng to raise awareness of issues we still face.

People used Birmingham Pride’s parade as a protest platform.

Birmingham’s large Pride parade draws people out onto the streets.
The whole parade route is lined with people who, despite not being in the parade itself, are just as involved.

The people of Birmingham and the West Midlands seem to make a decisive effort to come out and see and support the Pride Parade.
It creates a busy atmosphere, but in my opinion its not necessarily one of support for the causes.
I felt like a lot of people watching were watching simply for the spectacle of seeing a Pride, rather than because they whole heartily support the Pride movement.
Not that there were not lots of people who clearly supported the movement too, mind.

The Gay Village at Birmingham Pride is a rather different experience to the free Prides in the UK.

At £22 for a standard entry ticket, lots of people are deterred from entering the branded ‘Gay Village’. A naming I Strongly disagree with.
I noted, that as soon as the parade broke away and the village opened, the type of people around suddenly changed and the vibe pivoted to something completely different.

Instead of feeling like I was on a semi-protest march for LGBT+ rights, I was now in some alcohol and nicotine fueled festival that seemed to have absolutely no purpose except to provide a reasonably cheap way of seeing lots of musical artists in one place.

For me, as soon as we went into the village area the Pride lost all sense of, well, Pride.
The people there completely changed, there were practically no young people at all around. Suddenly a huge amount of straight people arrived, and I noticed a sharp decline in the amount of people of colour. I even spotted a couple of hen parties (not that hen parties are bad, but it felt exploitative of the Pride movement).

Thats not to say ALL people from the parade left. This photo of a fetish (?) man getting his face painted highly amuses me.

There were clearly people having fun, and at the start, Idid enjoy seeing so many people meeting their friends and having a jolly gay time.

But as the day drew on, the haze of cigarette smoke increased over the absolutely packed venue area.
I was struggling to move around, I struggled to breath properly and I started to feel very uncomfortable presenting as myself. Entirely not what I expected from an event branding itself as a Pride.

In general, for me, the vibe went from feeling like a reasonably inclusive Pride to feeling like a hell hole of drunk people whome I was not safe around.

Your mileage may vary on this! Its totally possible that I felt uncomfortable because I was not with friends, I was not drinking and I was not particularly enthused by any of the acts on.

Clearly, there were lots of people having a great time in Birmingham Pride’s gay village, and I don’t believe that its going to be a terrible experience for everyone.

Birmingham Pride does provide a fantastic set of acts on a number of stages with some great venues in which to have a fun old time with your favourite people.

They do a great job of making your £22 ticket go a long way too.

Despite my compaints about the event, I’d like to congratulate the the Birmingham Pride committee and all the volunteers on pulling off its largest Pride yet!

Like all Prides, its unique and special in its own way.

I await seeing next years Pride.

Volunteers at Birmingham Pride.