Why Bristol Pride is as Necessary as Ever

Copyright: Sophie Setter Jerome

Copyright: Sophie Setter Jerome

Sophie Setter Jerome went to Pride, felt proud and then got alarmed that the council won’t be funding it anymore – when it’s more necessary than ever.

This year was the second Bristol Pride that I’ve attended, and whilst it had all the trappings you’d expect from a Pride festival: clouds of glitter, rainbow flags, the inexplicable presence of a Nandos mascot, it took place in the shadow of the news that the council will be cutting 100% of their funding to the event next year. This is devastating, and a decision that entirely ignores both the success and the necessity of Pride Week.

…who doesn’t love a free rainbow coloured pencil?

From the outside, I can see how Pride Day might just seem like an exercise in grabbing as much queer-themed merch as is humanly possible: it can appear more style than substance, and who doesn’t love a free rainbow coloured pencil?

However this outlook ignores what the Pride March is really about. Held to honour the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and the beginning of the ‘gay rights’ movement, Pride represents both how far we’ve come and what is left to do. You only need to take a look at the make up of the group around you to see how many people who rarely feel safe on the street flock to Pride and the sense of safety it offers. If the council is at all interested in fostering a sense of, not just community, but mental wellbeing in Bristol, then events like Pride deserve funding.

Pride represents both how far we’ve come and what is left to do.

What’s more, as a primarily daytime-based event, Pride day is also one of the few times young LGBTQ+ people have access to queer spaces. So much of ‘gay culture’ revolves around drinking and other generally ‘not appropriate for under-18s’ activities that many of us are shut out at an age when we most need support and guidance. There’s nothing wrong with nightlife, but when it’s all you’ve got you cut out a sizable demographic, and having everything gay-related take place under the cover of darkness doesn’t exactly scream ‘shame-free’ if you ask me. Events like Pride that have a ‘family area’ and are full of supporters young and old help to spread the message that the LGBTQ+ lifestyle isn’t inherently more sexual or dangerous than any other, and there’s little so joyous as having a baby present you with a rainbow flag.

With addiction within the LGBTQ+ community averaging higher rates than the rest of the population, events like Pride are crucial in paving the way for more ‘PG’ gay events, a healthier queer community and a healthier Bristol as a result.

The events that make up Pride Week, from screenings of LGBTQ+ films to alternative theatre productions, are equally important. I have one of these to thank for the first time I found friendships in the queer community, which for a lot of young people such as myself offer a unique sense of belonging and support. Arts events like these are also some of the few times that queer identities are focussed on. I don’t know about you, but my school wasn’t exactly anxious to so much as mention the possibility that a historical figure, or author, or even fictional character could be something other than straight. Queer productions enrich the Bristol arts scene, and pave the way for the next generation of creators, who through these events have discovered the relevance of their own otherwise dismissed identity. To cut funding to this is to stifle progress.

Bristol Pride, voted the Second Best Pride in England last year, cannot maintain it’s strength with no funding.

And progress is exactly what the council’s decision will stunt. Bristol Pride, voted the Second Best Pride in England last year, cannot maintain it’s strength with no funding. Last year, donations to the organisation only averaged out at 20p per Pride attendee, nowhere near enough to keep the festival free to enter, and once simply celebrating who you are has a cost attached to it, we can be sure we will lose much of the diversity that currently makes Bristol Pride so great. The Stonewall Riots that Pride commemorates were conducted by the poorest and most marginilised in the LGBTQ+ community. To shut out this group from future Pride events would be a terrible irony, and I for one won’t be having anywhere near such a gay old time if this huge step back in the path to equality becomes a reality.

Did you go to Pride? Did you enjoy yourself? What do you think about the council’s decision? Talk to us on Twitter… go on, tweet us: @rifemag

Did you know that 4YP run a long-established LGBTQ+ group? Here’s where to find them

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