There’s a curious thing about sharks. Sharks must always move forward. Their gills – the way they breathe – are designed in such a way that if there’s no forward motion, they don’t work. So they must move forward. The only shark that doesn’t move forward is a dead shark. And who wants to be a dead shark?
Brighton Pride is something to be proud about. It’s one of those things that makes Brighton what it is, one of the reasons we live here. But everything changes, and rather like Glastonbury, the world is divided between those who say “Oh, it’s not like it used to be” and those who, for their own reasons, are happy it’s there.
Pride began here in 1972, a demonstration by The Sussex Gay Liberation Front… Don’t worry, we’re not going to go into the history of Pride – that’s what Wikipedia’s for – but suffice to say it’s very different now. A weekend wristband to the St James’s Village Party is £27.50, a ticket to “We Are Fabuloso” at Preston Park to see Christina Aguilera is £54.50 – £67.50 if you get the weekend pass. Of course, it’s not like it used to be.
Politics and commercialism are uneasy mates. They’re often suspicious of each other. Must it be that way? Must money ruin the spirit? At the first Pride here there were 2,000 people. This year there’ll maybe be half a million. Has Pride strayed too far from its roots and become another party on the calendar, next to Fatboy on the Beach and whatever else?
Should all the acts be gay? I remember how Live Aid was criticised for being too white, for having no African bands. If we were raising money for Africa, the argument went, should we not have been celebrating African music and culture instead of listening to a lot of white chart acts? But a lot of money was raised, a lot of people were helped. So should all the artists be gay? Or are we celebrating togetherness, celebrating being us?
Nothing is ever the same as it was. Life, like the shark, always moves forward. And Pride, just like Glastonbury and the others, just gets bigger, gets more popular, becomes mainstream, part of a wider culture.
None of this is to say that we should think the battle’s won, that the story is over, that that was then and this is now. The battle’s never really won. It never stops. We only have to look at the resurgence of antisemitism under the last Labour leadership to know how fragile our safety is. We’re safe now, but we should never forget that living in Brighton in 2022 is a privilege, that we’re just lucky enough to be born into a time and place where glitter’s not a crime.
Maybe we should just enjoy how great is it that half a million people can come and celebrate together, drink together, dance together. How great that the only murder is gonna be is on the dancefloor. And you’d better not kill the groove DJ, gonna burn this goddamn house right down…