It’s the height of summer, and where this is being written that means I rarely see home on a Saturday. The ceaseless social whirl of the Trans Lifestyle, you ask? No, I’m working. A high proportion of my summer Saturdays are spent at Prides in my region, as I stand with some of my friends in front of a gazebo emblazoned with my trade union’s logo, and hand out information on workplace rights for LGBT+ people to the passing throng. We are heavily committed to Prides as individuals, as a committee, and as a wider organisation, we often help them with financial donations, and we see them as a place where we can find and genuinely help people who are facing the workplace discrimination issues we have faced ourselves.
What makes a good Pride?
That’s enough of the advert for trade union membership though, in this article the focus is on the events themselves. What makes a good Pride, what makes a well-organised Pride, and what goes in to attending a Pride for an organisation rather than as an individual? Appearing regularly at Prides over several years gives a very interesting overview of the Pride scene in general, and it is this experience that informs what you are reading here.
The ingredients that make a good Pride celebration are difficult to quantify, because every attendee will find their own value in it. But if you come away happy and relaxed, having had an affirming or awakening experience, a good day out at an event at which all have been made welcome, then you’ll know when the Pride you’ve attended has been a good one. There are events which we look forward to months beforehand because we know the team behind them get them so right, and others, often the ones that have since folded, we’re quietly glad we won’t need to return to.
You might imagine that a good Pride and a well-organised Pride are by nature the same thing, but while that is often the case the two sets are not mutually inclusive. We do some events when we know from experience the team behind them sometimes have something of the shambolic about them, because for the right on-the-day experience it’s worth spending months coaxing our booking from their organisers. In a well-organised Pride though the experience of bringing a stand to the event runs like clockwork, all bookings are sorted back in January, pertinent information is distributed effectively, and communications with the organisers elicit a prompt and efficient response. These are the teams that it is a joy to work with, and it is not by coincidence that new Prides which put their efforts into this side of the operation are generally those that survive into following years.
How do we do Prides?
So what goes into bringing our stand to a Pride, how do we do it? This story starts before Christmas, in November and December we will already be looking at the next year’s events and deciding which ones we will attend. Some are regulars for us, but we are always anxious to support new Prides so there is always a discussion at which we formulate our summer timetable. We then contact the organisers, and for the well-organised ones find out the details, and put in our bookings. For the others we’ll spend the next few months sending the occasional reminder email, sometimes securing a booking by spring and others going down to the wire as the organiser sends out a panic-ridden round of invoices in the weeks before the event.
The equipment we take to a Pride would fit in a very large estate car, but we will often hire a van for the task if we have a run of Prides to attend over several consecutive weeks. There is our gazebo, a professional-grade folding shelter with a sturdy aluminium frame, a couple of large folding tables, flags, banners, tablecloths, cable ties, tape, stationery, and a selection of large grey storage boxes into which we load whatever leaflets, stickers, and giveaways we’ll be bringing along. We will assemble all this a week or more beforehand, so that on the day we are safe in the knowledge that everything will be at hand.
On the day, we need at least six people, one for each leg of the gazebo. The team covering the event will travel to it from across the region, and convene at the site usually when it is an almost-empty field at which few others have arrived. We’ll get the gazebo up and set out well before it’s needed, this gives plenty of breathing space to cover anything unexpected. Then when it’s time for the parade we’ll leave one of our number to mind the stand, and set off with our banner and flags to be visible. A full-size traditional trade union marching banner is an iconic and impressive sight, but let me tell you it’s a handful in any sort of wind. After a day of proselytising the cause of workplace rights, we break down the stand like the well-oiled machine we wish we were, load it all into the van, and return home. At the end of the season we’ll have a get-together at which we discuss each Pride, what went well, and what we’d have preferred to happen differently.
If you are going to do as many Prides as we do, you need both a commitment to your reason for doing it as well as some enjoyment of Pride celebrations. Speaking personally I would not go to this many of them if I were not doing so with my union, however the enjoyable company of my fellow committee members from all sides of the LGBT+ spectrum and the usually relaxed nature of the events makes them into more of a day out than a chore. I feel I’m more in touch with the rest of the LGBT+ community as a result, a heartening scene over the last few years has been the proliferation of people carrying all possible Pride flags other than the rainbow. We do attend one of the very large commercialised Pride events, but it is at the small local Prides that you really encounter the spirit of what a Pride event should be, a demonstration and affirmation of LGBT+ rights rather than just an excuse for a party.
So if I or any other trade unionist offers you a sticker at a Pride this summer, you’ll now know what Pride means to us. What does it mean to you?
Image: Sparkle 2017 stalls, courtesy of our own Rachel Evans.