Birmingham Pride 2015 took place at the weekend. But it wasn’t the costumes that impressed Dave Woodhall.
Like thousands of others I was in the city centre on Saturday. Shoppers, workers, tourists, passing through travellers; we were all part of the scene in what has apparently become one of Europe’s most popular destinations.
Then at the stroke of midday we were joined by the sights and sounds of Pride as the parade made its way down New Street and out towards Digbeth. I don’t know how many took part, but it took more than forty minutes for the procession to leave its starting point in Victoria Square. I don’t know how many people watched, or how many later joined in the festivities over the weekend. Thousands, tens of thousands. They enjoyed themselves, they spent loads and those who aren’t local will have gone home with a positive impression of the city.
But the thing that pleased me most, and this is more about the people of Birmingham than anything else, was the reaction of everyone who wasn’t joining in, who happened to be in New Street for some other purpose.
Anyone who knows more about the subject than I do can correct me if I’m wrong, but Pride always strikes me about making a statement. You are what you are, you’re proud of it and you want to the world to know. It’s about being loud, brash, about flamboyance. If Pride is anywhere near, you can’t help but know it’s happening. ‘In your face’ is a polite way of putting it.
And what I loved about Saturday, was how those who weren’t a part of Pride but just happened to be near while it as taking place, carried on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Drag queens, stiltwalkers, bands, loud music; they were all accepted as part of the Saturday afternoon street scene. It was all perfectly normal. Nobody was complaining, nobody thought it was “disgusting”.
This is what’s great about Birmingham. I’m not saying it’s perfect, or that there isn’t friction between different cultural groups, whether down to ethnicity or something as trivial as football teams. However, and this can’t be stressed heavily enough, on the whole we get on. We accept that everyone else has the right to do what they want, and if that means putting your best frock on and dancing down New Street to It’s Raining Men then good luck to you.