Contributed by Marc Privett, Brighton, UK
By the time the train rolled into the station I was ecstatic that I could finally get some sanity and away from the cocky gay teens who seemed to find boundless joy in irritating everyone around them with repetitive renditions of every ringtone on their latest gadgets. We spilled onto the streets en-masse, and sheepishly followed the crowds. We knew we were in the right place as there was not a single shop front that did not display the rainbow flag. It became obvious to me that this town, billed as the UK’s gay village, truly lives up to its name.
After a short stroll on the beach followed by a quick bite at a quaint coffee shop in St James Street, a street filled everything from sex shops to delicious patisseries; we were ready to take on everything that Pride had to offer. As we arrived at the destination in Preston Park two things became apparent – the sheer number of people in the park and the magnitude of litter. The last time I witnessed so many people in one park they were entertained by the biggest names in music today.
I was gripped by the carnival atmosphere and it took me no time to get into full swing. There was just too much to see and do. My body was pulling me in every direction wanting to take all of it in and miss nothing. Everyone was there from the ever-present disco queens dressed in nothing but their gorgeous 6-packs and 1000 watt smiles, to sequined madams revelling in the attention. There was everything from the weird to the macabre. It dawned on me that the official wear of Pride-of-old has been replaced by leather. I have never seen so many bears, or tattoos for that matter.
The atmosphere was truly carnival, with offerings from stalls selling everything from sex toys to Burberry coats for your toy dog, to the carnival rides which catered for every level of bravery (or alcohol level). Kids could be seen entertaining themselves while their adult counterparts soaked up the sun and sank their beers.
I spent some time in the Black Pride tent where I met some friends from South Africa, and did a stint in the jam packed Wild Fruit, which impressed me with the quality of music. I skipped from area to area taking in the different offerings and nuances of the crowds that each section attracted. There were live acts all over the place, from acoustic sounds in the lesbian quarter to quality hip-hop jams, and of course a cabaret show or two. I cannot say that I remember the music on the Gaydar stand, but those amazing bodies with their tantalising moves will be etched on my brain for a long time.
Within no time, and a few drinks too many, it was time to vacate the park. Although disappointed at having to leave I could sense that there was more around the corner. Soon we found oursleves back in St James Street, which had been converted from a village street to a street party courtesy of makeshift disco areas throbbing with rhythmic beats. I wondered if it was possible for the 100,000 strong crowd from the park to fit into the street. Party-goers filled the nightclubs which had long waiting lists and queues, others were members only for the night.
The darkness brought with it a new level of hunting. It was interesting to watch the body language as the boys were on the hunt. Lips whispered into ears, while hands rubbed along backs. Needless to say many men and women got their catch.
I couple shakes of the tail-feather in a very mixed crowd and a few drinks later it was all over, just as quickly as it begun. We made our way to the train station with heavy hearts at the thought of having to leave this fun and head back to London. After an arduous 2 hour wait at the station and another 1.5 hours of train journey we eventually made it home tired and cranky.
So was it worth it? Without a doubt.
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