Saturday, August 07, 2010

Everyone loves a parade!

Bit of a belated post this one, but I've not really been in a writing mood.

Last weekend was Norwich's second ever Pride celebration. I managed to go to last year's, but circumstances meant I wasn't able to stay for the parade(I don't like the word "march" in this context). So this year I cleared my diary, and got my GF to do the same. It was still all a bit last minute, not helped by a family holiday and a lost phone, but a message from Lara made it all viable again.

I'd got my outfit packed the night before, and a cooler bag was on standby for when we were ready to go. So all we had to do was wake up, get dressed (civvies for me, fabulous 20s ensemble for my girlfriend), and grab everything we needed.

It was drizzling when we got to Norwich and parked up, but we were in good spirits as we walked to the Forum.

The Forum is Norwich's "new" library and meeting place (aptly named then!) It's a big glass fronted building with an large atrium at the front, the library itself, a radio station, cafe, meeting rooms, and display rooms. Outside is a large roundish area surrounded by shallow steps on two sides, a church on one side, and a road on the last.

This year there was the Big Rainbow Bus from Pink Punters, and a stage by the roadside, and the atrium was filled with stalls from all sorts of organisations and businesses. There were advocacy groups, trade unions, a gay-friendly adoption agency, various LGBT groups from local employers, a couple of craft stalls, and even the local police who were conducting a survey on safety, hate crimes, and whether people knew who to turn to if they had problems. They had a TARDIS with holes cut in, and each side had two questions, and holes for yes/no/don't know that you popped a pingpong ball in to register your feelings. It was pretty cool.

My girlfriend was drawn to the tombola, and we came away with a couple of CDs and a voucher for Innania's Festival (a local pagan/hippy/crystals type shop). I also bought a rather lovely hairband with a black lace, and a pink satin, bow attached. The two ladies running the stall were friendly and chatty, and I showed them the hairfalls I was going to wear later in the day. They were very taken by the neon pink!

Outside they were getting ready for a linedancing display/workshop, so we wandered off to the park where the picnic was going to be. Plenty of stewards setting up for the march, but no picnickers. So it seemed like a good time to get ready. A local community theatre had set aside a dressing area for Pride, and it was this that swung my atendance from maybe to yes! The reaction of the young lady on the reception desk to the before and after put me in a very positive mood.

This was the ensemble:

When I was done we wandered back to the park to start on our picnic. We met Lara there looking a little demure, and chatted with Noam of the Warhol Factory Rejects. The sun was getting out, and we ate our food listening to the Norwich Samba Band, Vince Laws and some other poets I didn't catch the name of, and we also had a chat with a nice old couple who we shared a bench with.

While we had been eating Lara had gone off to get changed into this rather spiffy steampunk/Victoriana outfit:

There was still an hour to go until the march, so we had the bright idea to dump the picnic and anything else we didn't need to lug around, back at the car. This was either a moment of madness or genius, because when we re-emerged rfom the car park, the heavens had opened!

We stood under shelter with lots of other people dressed for summer, until we got bored, and then made a break for it. Weaving our way through Norwich we went via Jarrold's MAC makeup counter, the covered market, and finally took a break at the Forum again. Where we chatted to the ladies on the craft stall again, met up with old friends Lynn and Diane, and waited for a break in the weather.

When it didn't lok like any was going to come, we gave up and started walking anyway. Sadly by this point my fluffy boots were rather waterlogged around the bottom, and getting a bit muddy. But we kept calm and carried on ;-)

Back at the park, there was already a large crowd gathered, and the Lord Mayor and Town Crier gave a speech from the bandstand that was mostly lost in the wind. Fortunately the organisers and stewards had better projection and advised everyone that there would be protesters along the route. We were asked not to boo or jeer, and instead to ignore them, and cheer, smile and generally have a good time as we passed. Genius!

And then, as the samba band started up, and the whistles started to blow, the sun came out and the rain stopped!

The parade itself was great. It wasn't too fast, and several times we halted for reasons we never found out. There was all sorts of people marching with us. There were unions and organiastions with banners (even including the local Quakers and Unitarian church!); parents with children (who had been to the facpainting sessions before the parade); the leather brigade (including a man in rubber and a gasmask); teens, old people; drag queens; a giant pair of lips and a soundsystem on a trolley from the Warhol Factory Rejects; dogwalkers with dogs in rainbow doggie coats; lots and lots of rainbow flags; and even Norfolk's new Cheif Constable, showing his comittment to the LGBT community. There's a video here if you want to see the start of the march.

The police had closed off the streets, so we marched along the centre of the roads and waved and smiled at all the people standing on the pavements (and some people on balconies and looking out of windows). I had to laugh as we passed Chapelfield Mall. A girl watching the parade scoffed and said to her friend "This can't be legal!" As if a spontaneous parade could happen without months of planing and co-ordination with the council and the police!

The protesters were outside Primark and behind stewards and police silently holding up placards with biblical quotes on. Which amused me because of the Quakers and Unitarians marching with us. Some people with us also had on t-shirts that read "Jesus loves everyone" on the front and "even smug hypocritical bigots" on the back. The protesters were ignored, and everyone cheered, laughed and blew whistles as we passed.

The parade finally arrived at the Forum, where we gathered for some speeches from the organisers, and the Cheif Constable. We were also taught the gesture for "Pride" by the people providing British Sign Language translations of the speeches.

But we were tired out after this, and decided to call it a day. We found somewhere to eat (a very nice cornish pastie place by the market) and wandered off to the carpark via a few shops.

Getting changed back to civvies in a multistory carpark is a story I'm going to gloss over! But overall the day was great. I'm a sucker for compliments, and even the looks of confusion from people made me smile. The only negative comment I got all day was a snigger from a chav. Otherwise, people were wonderful.

In the march people were walking at diferent speeds, so you tended to be walking with different people at different times. And everyone we walked with was friendly, some were even chatty.

I'm really looking forward to next year's parade.