Isle Of Wight Pride 2018

rainbow

pride2018

This weekend was the second ever Isle Of Wight Pride Celebration. It took place in Ryde amidst glorious sunshine. The Island has had a reputation of being backward- looking, set in the past. This was not helped by our previous MP of long-standing, a man who had control of one of the largest constituencies in the UK and who voted against any proposals in government to give equal rights to his LGBT+ constituents. When last year a Pride gathering was proposed, an event which would bring about a boost to the fading island economy there was some backlash from journalists in the local press which made news worldwide and was used as further evidence of how unready the island seemed to face the present day. The MP then sealed his own fate by informing a group of sixth formers that gay people were a danger to society and when one of these posted her outrage on Twitter it was not long before this MP resigned, at last accepting that he was out of step with the modern world.

IMG_20180721_125807
The Pride parade went ahead and hundreds thronged the streets, families, well-wishers who all entered the spirit of the event. The organisers, flushed by the success and positive feelings from a community who we were often informed were not keen on the idea of Pride by those in power decided to go one further and applied to become the hosts of UK Pride, a prestigious event which would bring many more over to the island. Other towns and cities applied but the bid for the Isle of Wight was the successful one and through hard work and dedication of a small group of people UK Pride at the Isle of Wight took place. Everyone was aware that it needed to be more than just a one day event and there has been many fund-raisers and events which have stressed the cultural and political importance of being able to accept and be accepted for your identity. The hashtag- I Own My Destiny has become the theme for the events. My partner Karl organised art exhibitions which displayed work from those artists on the island who identify as being LGBT+ and also from those who were finalists in a UK Pride art competition. His short interview with Solent Radio can be found here.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06dk58p

 The 15,000 tickets went incredibly quickly and a parade through the streets of Ryde was cheered by the thousands more who came to see it.  We stood to watch the parade on Union Street, which is steep and heads down to the seafront. As well as the floats and marchers representing many different organisations there was a 150m rainbow flag which looked absolutely fantastic as it billowed down the steep hill, being lifted by the breeze and covering the whole street as far as the eye could see. This was a breath-taking moment.

IMG_20180721_231307

Celebrations continued on the beach for those lucky enough to be ticket-holders. Pride on the Isle Of Wight is apparently the only Pride event to take place on a beach in the world. This is a little bit of a risk if the weather is not so good but Saturday was fabulous and we enjoyed a sun-drenched afternoon watching performers, wandering around the stalls and soaking the atmosphere of a truly inclusive event at which there were people of all ages and very positively, lots of families. It seems a little mean to single out certain performers but there were three which will stick in my mind. The crowd was really lifted by a Dolly Parton tribute act Kelly O’Brien who went down an absolute storm, as did Britain’s Got Talent 2016 semi-finalist Danny Beard who has a great voice and whose version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was terrific. Promoting EuroPride 2019 in Vienna was its ambassador and top of the bill act, Eurovision song contest winner Conchita who charmed the audience and who also really can sing live.

 

Danny Beard and Conchita – two of the main stage performers

It was a great day, superbly organised and must put Isle Of Wight Pride, on just its second year in the list of the best Prides in the UK alongside London, Brighton, Birmingham and Manchester. It brought in a lot of tourists who were prepared to spend money boosting the island economy (unlike the IOW Festival) and most importantly showed that the Isle of Wight is a relevant place, no longer rooted in the past, but with a vision of the future.
I’ll leave you some words from the official guide publication.

“We really want to capture the essence of Pride, celebrating how far we have come, but realising who much there is still to do. Pride has always been about fighting for rights, for the right to be yourself without fear or prejudice. The right to be in control of your own life and to OWN your destiny.”

IMG_20180721_130102 (1)

On a hot afternoon in Ryde this weekend this was achieved.

IMG_20180721_123602

 

Advertisements

Man’s World -Rupert Smith (Arcadia 2010) – A Rainbow Read

rainbow

rupertsmith

This weekend the Isle Of Wight, where I live,  is due to celebrate its first ever Gay Pride event.  These take place now all over the UK and apparently the Isle Of Wight represented the largest population without one so it is undoubtedly time to put that right.  It will also be the first place in the world to have it set mainly on the beach with the hovercraft (Hovertravel being one of the main sponsors of the day) going backwards and forwards ferrying the acts from the mainland. 5000 people have registered to take part in the event which made national news when it saw the rapid departure of the island’s long-standing Conservative MP who made bigoted comments when addressing a group of sixth formers.  One of the pupils, Esther Poucher, posted his remarks on social media and achieved what many islanders and some in his own party had tried to do for years in forcing his resignation.

pride

The message for this year’s Isle Of Wight Pride is “#Love Wins” and it is perhaps appropriate that I have been reading this novel in the run-up to the event by gay writer and journalist Rupert Smith.

What’s the gender opposite of chick-lit? Dick-Lit inevitably springs to mind and has no doubt already been termed and it is an appropriate tag for this novel which is Smith’s sixth out of the eight books he has written under his own name.  He has also published nine racier novels under the name James Lear and a couple of novels aimed at the commercial female market (Chick-Lit then) as Rupert James. I have read his 2006 “Service Wash” which mixed soap opera with murder.  That was okay, this is better.

The front cover has a recommendation from Sarah Waters, a novelist who I care enough about to get me at least considering a book’s purchase. What we have here is literary fiction, with a gay emphasis and here with a historical element.

There are two narratives, one, a present day tale of London life from gym bunny Robert precariously balancing work, drink, drugs, friends and shopping, the other beginning with conscription to National Service in 1957.  Robert’s account is written as a blog and the second narrator Michael’s as a secret diary as it reveals information that could lead to his ruin at a time when homosexuality was illegal.  With Robert everything is out in the open, with Michael everything is hidden.  Sixty years have made quite a difference.  As one older character tells Robert towards the end;

“You think you invented it, don’t you?  But you didn’t.  You just bought it.  You had it all handed to you on a plate and you never stopped to wonder who put it there.  Your generation seems to have lost the ability to love or to care or to fight for change or to do anything other than fuck each other and shop.”

This is really Smith’s attempt to address this generation.  We’ve come on so far with equality and yet is the current state of play so great after all?  Robert and his friends have their freedom but are there lives any richer or are they any less lonely?  There’s a new set of problems and issues which are restricting happiness.  I began this novel really enjoying the tale of Robert’s shallow existence.  It was laugh out loud funny in that “Absolutely Fabulous” way.  Smith is actually quite strong with the humour throughout.  I felt quite disappointed when the National Service sequence began but I was soon drawn into Michael’s attraction to cocky muscleman Mervyn Wright.  The two narratives interlink nicely and the whole thing remains enjoyable throughout.  There used to be a lot more of this type of fiction around with independent publishers such as the Gay Men’s Press putting out work of variable quality and the last thirty years or so have given us some great gay themed novels (Alan Hollinghurst, Armistead Maupin, Sarah Waters, Neil Bartlett, Michael Carson, Graeme Aitken are amongst those who can take a bow here) but nowadays, either this market is not reading as much or there is not such a need for this type of fiction. It seems much harder to find in the real book world.  (LGBTQIA publishing is still flourishing as E-books).  I think this book would most likely appeal to a gay male audience but Smith’s handling of his range of characters and his recreation of two differing points of time would please a wider readership.

threestars

Man’s World was published by Arcadia in 2010.