This Saturday sees Brighton Pride 2016. Pride has become one of the main dates in the Brighton calendar and is, without doubt, the event that attracts most visitors to the city.
BHT will, once again, be there with clients and staff in the main procession on an open top bus. I have been invited to be on the float of the Argus/Brighton and Hove Buses.
It wasn’t always the celebration that it is today. In the late 1980s I went on the first Pride march, from Hove Town Hall to Preston Park. There were only about 200 of us on the march and it was more of a political demonstrations. I was one of just six Brighton Borough Councillors willing to take part.
The reception on the streets was sometimes hostile, with threats of violence and at least one beer can being thrown at us.
At Preston Park, there were no stalls or celebration. I have a photograph of Preston Park at the end of an early Pride march. There were just one or two stalls, one selling a publication called Daring Hearts which recorded the early LGBT history of Brighton and Hove.
Following the earliest march, there were some outrageous statements by a fellow Brighton councillor quoted in The Sun. A couple of us were subject to ‘loony leftie’ slurs a few days later, a rather disturbing experience to be on the receiving end of an attack in the most widely read newspaper/comic in the country.
Those days are gone now and Saturday, in spite of insecurities of this age, will once again draw huge crowds.
I know it will not be popular but I do have concerns about what Pride has turned into. The level of alcohol and drug use is a depressing side, and I know that traders in London Road dread of the day, some shutting up shop because of the aggro they experience.
Residents in neighbouring streets, too, do not look forward to the day, seeing their front gardens turned to public toilets and worse.
My message to all of us who will be there to enjoy Pride, think about others, respect their homes and businesses, and don’t let alcohol and drugs turn a celebration into a personal crisis.