Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Liverpool's first "official" Pride, August 7th 2010
"Liverpool Pride" indeed and so much to be proud of!
In January 2009 I was at a meeting of Liverpool City Council when we voted for a proposal to have a Pride festival in Liverpool (well most of us did anyway!). It felt good, we left the meeting on a high.
In May 2009 I was at the IDAHO event in Liverpool Town Hall where the LCVS LGBT Network was consulting about a possible Pride event in Liverpool. I remember giving my response on tape, talking about how it should be inclusive, something for everyone, calm and reflective as well as great fun and very colourful. The organisers encapsulated all of that.
On Friday we had a multi-faith Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) religious service.
On Saturday we had a march, a parade without floats or motorised vehicles, full of public servants, the police, fire service, youth services, LGBT groups, political parties, health workers... many of them LGBT themselves but some there to show support for others. And of course there were thousands of enthusiastic people of all ages marching in joy, marching in solidarity. Some marching "out and proud", flamboyant in their costumes, some marching quietly and dressed to conform, but with deep personal satisfaction that their time too had come.
This was no hole and corner march either, it was lead by Liverpool's first citizen, The Lord Mayor, Councillor Hazel Williams with her little grandchild, accompanied by the Town Crier, both of them in all their regalia. Hazel incidentally was marvellous, full of joie de vivre, she danced with drag queens and twirled with the Town Crier to the delight of the crowds. We all owe her huge thanks for her support and for holding a civic reception in the Town Hall and for flying the rainbow flag above.
After the march we enjoyed countless performers, singers, dancers and artists on three stages across the gay quarter in town. 6 hours of live music and performance enjoyed by gay and straight alike, grannies and grandchildren, mums and dads, wives and wives, husbands and husbands, boys, girls and lovers, and all their friends.
Then, Chill Out Sunday, the museums and art galleries of the city threw open their doors with a bevy of LGBT offerings - films, tours and exhibitions (Hockney at the Walker to name but one), while at Wavertree Sports Centre, LGBT teams competed in football tournaments, rounders, water polo and tug-of-war.
The whole weekend passed off beautifully, incident free. There were those who came into Liverpool full of confidence, passion, excitement and enthusiasm, ready to celebrate their sexuality and have a really great time, and there were those for whom this was the first time they tiptoed out of the closet, blinking into the daylight. Some of the older people who have hidden themselves for decades, who lived through times when to be gay was to be prosecuted and persecuted and subjected to hideous electric tortures, bashed and bullied, forbidden to marry or have children, came to finally feel valued. Others slipped into the march behind appropriate banners and walked round in open-mouthed amazement as the ordinary folk of Liverpool lined the streets to clap and nod and smile and be overheard saying to each other "It is all about being fair, it is important, it is right".
The Labour Party did us proud. There must have been 40 people at least who marched behind our LGBT Labour banner, 80% of the City Council Cabinet were there, a good half of the Labour Group of Councillors, supportive straight members joining in solidarity with LGBT members. We had gay members from across the NW and a few from further afield - Birmingham and London for instance.
I did have a few tears in my eyes, particularly as I saw the people lining the streets in support, ordinary people doing their shopping, tourists, families, stopping to clap and cheer. And the greatest supporters in the crowd were white haired pensioner women. They cheered and waved and were all encouraging smiles as we marched past. They really lifted my heart.
Liverpool has not always had a good reputation for being open to diversity, but in 2010 the city rose to the challenge.
I am proud of the city, its people, the Labour Party, my LGBT friends, the council, the public services and I cannot wait to do it all again next year! Bring it on!
Photo: Courtesy of Liverpool Pride. The sea of red you can see are the Labour LGBT group in their "35 years of equality" t-shirts. There were as many marching in civvies as there were in red t-shirts, so you can see how huge our group was! I was thrilled to be marching directly behind Mike and Marrie and Debbie Causer who I am now pleased to be friends with, who keep their gay son and brother's candle burning through the Michael Causer Foundation, in a dedicated campaign to bring meaning to his brutal murder.