5 Sep 2009

Summer of Prides and Carnivals

You know it's getting Winter, the nights draw closer, it's getting colder and damper, X-factor has started, Big Brother has ended, it doesn't stop raining up North, Blackpool Illuminations have been switched on and Pride and Carnival events have ended.
This year my trail started early with what was supposed to be a recuperation trip to be looked after by my friend in Luton for my birthday. It coincided with the chance to experience the opening of the UK Centre for Carnival Arts (UKCCA). This was a spectacular international and multi-cultural event . With music and live bands in the town centre during the day and a torchlight costume arade early evening from the town centre to the newly opened centre, the rest of the night was a show case of dance, costume, gymnasts and music. The night culminated with the the sun and the moon and everyone singing 'We are the World'.
Later this year, my friends who live in Riga invited me and some friends over for a weekend break. This coincided with Baltic Pride and was yet again an experience not to be missed. What with not knowing whether or not it was going ahead or not in the first place and then confronting the protests but it was well protected by the police and we spent a very pleasurable day in the park. Riga itself, is a beautiful city and the day after Pride strolling around was quite surreal as you were not sure whether you were talking to someone who had been calling for you to be exterminated the day before. I have been to Riga many times and have a number of friends living there.
My home town of Preston hosts an annual Caribbean Carnival. Photos and video from this year's Carnival taken by Creative Mixed Media can be found here.

Usually on my agenda is London Pride which follows TUC LGBT Conference. The day started off as a funny old day with me and three of my friends travelling 'gayly' on the tube to Baker Street. As we were pulling into a station, one of three thugs started shouting racial abuse at my friends saying it was disgrace that they were allowed to be in a trade union and in 'our capital city'. Two of my friends were wearing 'proud to be lgbt in a trade union'. My friends were all Black. After the shock of the abuse and realising that I was the only other white person on the carriage, we didn't let it dampen the rest of the day. The rain did threaten to dampen us at times but that also kept off. We marched with the UNISON group behind the Greater London Advan before staffing the stall for the rest of the day.

Then there was UK Black Pride in Regents Park on 15th August. This was one of the highlights of my Summer and as usual the event was chilled out, entertaining, friendly, with community stalls and was credit to the organisers going from strength to strength. Beverley Knight gave a great performance. The fact that she had performed at Party in the Park in Preston earlier that day and still made it to London, meant that she really wanted to be there. Dancing the night away at the Oysters UK after party at the Oak Bar, I had a great time. I managed to make a weekend out of this one spending some time strolling around Hyde Park, Regents Park, Soho and staying in a nice little boutique hotel so had a refreshing break at the same time as supporting my Black LGBT comrades.

I also spent a day at Manchester Pride which for me is always a bit too crowded but the day I spent there was enjoyable enough. I met up with people from LGBT Labour and UNISON and managed to look around the stalls. The Parade was pretty impressive but the weather unfortunately was not.
I was a bit disappointed that I could not make it to Notting Hill Carnival this year. I last went two years ago and I think I shall try and make it next year although it is at the same time as Manchester Pride. I can always try and do both in the same weekend. It is a shame that the carnival seems to attract such bad press such and that the newspapers headline with the fact that there were more than 200 people arrested and that a 15-year-old boy was stabbed. I don't in the least condone gun and knife crime and it is sad to see that a young man was stabbed. Yet, it seems to be forgotten that when you have an event where there are hundreds of thousands of people attending that 200 arrests are a small minority in comparison and that should not overshadow what is one of Europe’s greatest cultural events.

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