Nottingham Pride at the Arboretum

The 3rd annual Nottingham Pride event took place on Saturday July 23rd, 2005. By a large leap the biggest so far, despite a certain number of well-concealed behind-the-scenes issues, for all involved on the day it seemed to run smoothly and hassle-free.

It was early, around 11am, that the first visitors began to arrive and browse the stalls, some of which were still having their finishing touched put to them.

At 12:30 (half an hour late) the stage shows began with a rendition of Labi Siffres “Something Inside So Strong” from some rather shy-looking committee members, before comperes Pariss and Grew took the stage to lead the audience through the acts.

Elsewhere in the park, the New Foresters beer tent, run by New Foresters pub owner Debs, entertained with their own brand of music and a live set from folk singer Ali Wright.

The Co-Operative Group, next door with their own spacious marquee, offered circle dancing, chances to win on a spin-the-wheel game, an arcade dance machine and the opportunity to find out about their dedication to fair trade ethics.

The Health Shop, incorporating such organisations as Breakout, the Gai Project and Chill Out Sound Support, set up their very own village fete. Complete with Jester, Squire, Witch and Fair Maiden, and offering information, advice and some fun games.

Vodafone, placed in a rather unfortunate position and coming into unhappy conflict with the groundskeeper about the legal limits placed on their dance sounds, nevertheless proved a popular showing; giving away prizes, filling the path with dancers and providing a veritable bevy of brightly coloured and painted bodies to wander the park.

On the stalls themselves were various organisations – to mention and properly discuss each would take time and a half, but special mentions are deserved by some.

The Birmingham University LGBT group made a good showing with their Stamp Out Homophobia In Schools project – a stall that was noticed and commented on positively by a lot of people.

Snake Bake Designs – a relatively new start-up – brought some great designs to rival the Freedom Friends and Aspire (who, along with others, made an excellent showing). The Police, Victim Support and Nottingham Council – Action On Diversity, all situated well apart from each other, offered not only irresistible freebies, but also genuine and enthusiastic support for all (and the hit of the day was by far the pink t-shirts given away by the council – I have one hanging in my wardrobe as I write).

In the vast majority, stallholders professed themselves very pleased with all aspects of the day, while those leaving the park with free gifts, purchases or merely memories did so with a smile and were only too willing to gush a little about how much fun they had.

Meanwhile, onstage, the shows went down a storm. Personally, I only caught the last two numbers from The Very Good Rock And Roll Band (who, I am pleased to say, did live up to their name), led by the inimitable Grew, and the closing sing-along of I Am What I Am by a handful of committee members, drag queens and the remarkably cheerful audience – but the whole atmosphere was one of cheerful – and diverse – togetherness.

There could have been improvements. The positioning of caterers near the stage meant that generators disrupted the music for those nearby. Vodafone and the groundskeeper did radiate a certain amount of hostility doe to the volume levels allowed. One or tow comments were made as to the distance between all things taking place and the disabled car park – particularly by one disabled stallholder. There was some minor annoyance at last minute forced changes to some layouts. But those things are minor and affected nobody’s day to any great extent.

On the up side raffle prizes, catering, trader presence and variety, disabled toilets and scooters, and the presence of Trent FM and Vodafone throughout did show plenty of choice and seemed to offer something for everyone.

On the down side, the booked stage acts were perhaps more oriented towards the specific tastes of those doing the booking, rather than thinking of the diverse bag they hoped would be there to see.

A larger problem, to my mind, was the professed tag of Celebrating Diversity’. It was, in the end, pulled off very well so far as it could be after the marketing and advertising managed to devote itself – with the exceptions of Trent FM promoting their own impending presence, and posters being put up in many Co-Op stores – almost exclusively to the gay press; with the result that most people not particularly integrated within the GLBT community had no idea that the event was taking place!

Despite such things, and a few less visible hiccups and issues, the day was very successful for all concerned – whether there for entertainment, trade, volunteering or just fun. I think it safe to say that all who came to visit left with a smile.

Next years event has some things which need to be improved on if the event wishes to continue gaining momentum and popularity – and I hope to see a more successful re-emergence of the strive for real diversity; but with a group of committed and able organisers, those changes should pose little problem – and Nottingham Pride 2006 will be bigger and better.

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