Pride Brighton 2016
Pride Brighton 2016 write-up by Cara Sutra – more info at the official website
Pride has become an increasingly significant and strongly emotive movement for me. Not only are both my partner and I bisexual, we fall into the area of LGBTQ which is still incredibly misunderstood and which is surrounded by all sorts of ridiculous myths. I visited my first Pride last year and was delighted to be able to visit again this year – not just with my partner (and minnie also came along and drove us) but also with the elder of my two sons, who is 11. I wanted to introduce him to Pride in the hopes it wouldn’t merely be incredibly fun for him (which Pride undoubtedly is) but also educational. Kids his age tend to use ‘gay’ as some sort of insult or to mean something bad/rubbish, and it’s just not right. Happily – after Pride weekend – he won’t be using the word as an insult any more.
Travel down from our home in north Lincolnshire was… long. It’s such a long way to the south coast. My American friends would probably laugh at this seeming like a ‘long road trip’ but when most journeys take a max of half an hour, 4-6 hours seems a lifetime. Especially with an 11-year-old asking if we’re ‘there yet’. However, with various loo stops, plying with burgers and KFC in no time at all we’d… got stuck in the Friday afternoon M25 traffic jam. Argh! Thank goodness for Spotify and for Sable knowing how to get it to play through the car’s music system. #geek
A mojito on the way helped as well. SMUG FACE.
Eventually we saw the first signs for Brighton and Hove and everyone let out a cheer. We found our inner city hotel, then the car park, and lugged our cases through bustling Brighton centre where there was a palpable excitement. Pride flags were out, Pride awning, Pride rainbows everywhere. Pride themed advertisements on every lamp-post and on every bus. Fantastic.
We checked into our hotel – two rooms – and checked out the facilities. It was the Brighton City Ibis and I hadn’t stayed in an Ibis before. It was compact but clean and comfortable. A quick and much-needed shower and change, and we were all ready to hit the town for the night – well, as much as you can do with an 11-year-old in tow.
I was really excited about heading out into Brighton again, not just because it had been a year since our last amazing visit but because I grew up next to the sea (well, on an island – in Jersey) and miss it so much. There’s not much in the way of seaside in Lincolnshire. I don’t even mean the typical British arcades, rides and promenade; it’s the lashing of the waves, the sea air, the miles off horizon… don’t really miss the seagulls all that much. We made our way to the sea front from our hotel and enjoyed wandering past all the tourist shops, fish and chip shops, bars and rock stalls. Tummies rumbling, we decided to look for somewhere for a lovely dinner.
After walking on the shop side of the seafront we arrived at what seemed to be a pretty run down hotel – the Queen’s Hotel. Inside the foyer was empty and it was quiet… but some chatter came from around a corner. Undeterred we followed our ears and noses and were surprised to find a beautiful little restaurant – the Number 1 Bar & Bistro – tucked away on the other side. We all enjoyed a gorgeous dinner (with another mojito), with window seating from which we could see the sea – and every single hen party, stag party and drag queen who passed by.
We moved on from the restaurant out to a Brighton which was past dusk and had come live with lights and music. The sparkle of Brighton Pier called to us and we headed over, having missed our chance to visit during our 2015 adventure. The pier is fantastic – and especially so at night, when the lights from the welcoming Brighton Pier sign echo all the way down the long wooden-slatted pier all the way to the end where the fairground rides thump out their techno tunes and call for more riders.
We walked through plenty of arcade areas; what must be the biggest arcade I’ve ever been in. A long hall filled to the brim with coin drop machines, prize grab machines, ticket win machines, trinket machines, fruit machines, change machines, shoot ’em up games, motorbike and car race games and even horse race and air hockey games. The noise was staggering. I guess it must be busy during summer season anyway but the night before Pride was something else.
By the time we’d spent our change in the arcade (and then some) the rides at the end of the pier were sadly closed, so we promised to come back on Sunday. Heading back through the partying city centre through crowds of merry people, live music and general happy mess we settled down for the night at a reasonable hour. The next day was sure to be long and tiring.
With such a sensible night’s drinking and sleep behind us, we woke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for the day ahead. Making our way to the seafront in good time for the Pride Parade at 11am, and buying some Pride flags en route, we found a spot on the pavement and waited for it to begin. Thankfully there was no delay like last year – no bomb scares or anything horrid – and after what seemed like an age waiting in anticipation the first of the floats and parade dancers came past.
There’s nothing really that I can add to the Pride parade than the photos (find more from the parade at the bottom of this post), except to say it was absolutely brilliant, just like last year. The carnival atmosphere, music, happy faces, glitzy and glamorous clothes and floats were fantastic and once everything had passed us we followed the parade as they made their way to Preston Park. On the way we did pop in to a lovely ‘happening’ pub for a drink and bite to eat. We were so thirsty from the sun and excitement (and screaming) as well as having missed out on breakfast that morning.
I was really impressed at the ‘unisex and for everyone’ loo.
Re-energised we caught up with the city party once again with most of the throng heading towards Preston Park. I felt sorry for anyone trying to swim against the tide… and with the amount of people carrying armfuls of wine bottles, they really were swimming. The mood was high (and so were a lot of the crowd, judging by the smells). There was a visible police presence, but like last year they seemed to be happy to be around and part of the party rather than opposed to it, overly strict or formal.
This year we’d splashed out on VIP tickets for the Preston Park Pride Festival part of the day. Last year was great but it did involve sitting on grass which wasn’t entirely dry, and I didn’t dare think about why. On a hopefully unrelated note, the toilets available to the mass crowds in the park were portaloo style; rows and rows of them but a massive queue to each one. It had made me feel that you were probably best watching the entire festival from one of the portaloo queues, because by the time you reached the front you’d undoubtedly be bursting to go again.
This year – what a difference. With VIP Grandstand tickets we were welcomed into a special area, with its own bars, seating area and a glorious grandstand that never became too full during the afternoon or evening. There was no worry about struggling to find a place to sit. And the toilet options? I had been worried it would still be portaloos – albeit with a shorter queue, and I was happy enough to go along with that. But instead of the individual portaloos there was a proper ladies and gents ‘loo cabin’, with actual cubicles, actual sinks and actual soap and even moisturising cream. Very posh. And when I say ladies and gents it really meant however you identify or however you’re identifying on the day. On the odd occasions there were a couple of ladies in our queue they did include drag queens even though they could have easily & immediately walked into the gents side. Now that’s commitment. We also got given Magnum ice-creams while we waited. Lush.
The stage was pounding with live music and entertainment, in the middle of which there was a minute’s silence to remember Orlando. We enjoyed the afternoon -especially with the glass after glass of complimentary champagne- and we were able to go into the main area to visit the market stalls and go on a few rides. Riding on the tall carousel swings after three glasses of champagne is an experience I’m not likely to forget in a hurry.
The sun was soon slipping down in the sky and the entertainment got a little more familiar. The big stars of the line up included Carly Rae Jepssen (I never realised how much of a gay anthem ‘Call Me Maybe’ was until every single chair about us in the grandstand flipped up in unison as all the guys stood up together to dance and cheer), Alesha Dixon and Fleur East. The grand finale was the one and only Sister Sledge. Apologies for the blurriness of the late evening shots, I have no idea how that could’ve happened. 😉
The only let-down in the VIP area was the lack of signage about any food areas. Some food was meant to be complimentary too, but when we asked we were told lunch had finished and it would be back on at 10.30 – only for the whole show to be over at about 10pm. As I had my son with me I wasn’t particularly happy, but not wanting to make a huge fuss we simply headed towards one of the many burger vans in the main area on our way out. There was much happy scoffing on the way back to the hotel (and perhaps a bit of merry singing too). Minnie and I had certainly enjoyed our complimentary champagne that day; Sable doesn’t really drink – and certainly not champagne – so was happy on Pepsi and taking care of my son. He’s a good ‘un.
We also let ourselves down a bit because we’d forgotten something rather important – sun cream. The day was absolutely gloriously blazing but we certainly felt the heat on our exposed faces and arms. I have a rainbow makeup stick which I’d put on my face and arm before heading out that morning, and I’ve still got a white area on my arm to show where it had been to this very day. The next morning I was burnt to a crisp.
That night, getting back to the hotel after Pride day, was possibly the best night’s sleep I’ve had this year, however.
I awoke on Sunday with, shall we say a slightly less refreshed head than I had on Saturday, but amazingly still not too bad. I’d promised my son we’d go back to the pier for rides (gulp) so there was nothing for it but to toughen up and get on with it. We needed a breakfast first though and wandering through The Lanes we found a gorgeous little cafe/pub which could just as easily have been in central Paris. So beautiful, dark and elegant.
It was also right next door to a Games Workshop which pleased my Warhammer 40k loving boys.
After *far* too much time spent in GW we finally made our way to the pier. I was feeling a lot better after a couple of strong coffees and brekkie, and buying a pre-paid rides card my son and I decided which to ride. I had to say no to the very end of the pier humongous swing arm ride (vom) but we agreed several including the waltzers, some thumping up and down ride and he also went on the trampolines. He and Sable went on the bumper cars too which is always good fun.
As we had a long drive ahead of us (well, minnie did) we didn’t want to spend all day in Brighton. I was missing Blue like mad and so we said goodbye to Brighton, the pier, the sea, the fish n chips and rock shops… and Pride for another year. Oh there are other Pride parades around the country but I doubt any of them can offer what Brighton does in this regard. It was another unforgettable, amazing weekend and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.
There are no affiliate links in this post