Isle of Wight staged its first Pride on July 15 and what a fantastic event it was, embodying everything a great pride should aspire to.
It is a huge responsibility to stage any public event, but the organisers of IOW Pride, just about got everything right, except they forgot to provide a dressing room for the drag queens, who took it all in their stride and encamped in the coast guards office behind the main stage. Not a single complaint, it was that sort of day!
What made this event unique and different from other Prides is that it was staged on the sandy beach in Ryde. The weather was overcast most of the day, but it did not rain and everyone who turned up seemed determined to have a great time. The atmosphere was infectious with smiling faces everywhere and people who did not know each other, just chatted together. It was lovely to watch.
I have rarely felt so safe at a Pride anywhere in the world and everyone was so nice to the many visitors who had made the trip over from the mainland.
I arrived by special hovercraft charter from Southsea with Miss Jason and other VIPs, direct onto the beach, close to the main stage and festival site. The hovercraft blew sand everywhere including over La Voix who was performing on main stage. It was quite an entry to the island for Miss Jason, the press pack and singers from the Southampton Gay Men’s Chorus.
Earlier in the day thousands took part in and watched the Pride Parade progress through the centre of Ryde, bringing the town to a standstill for a few hours. The parade was visible, loud and proud and included walking groups from statutory services, the unions and LGBT+ allies.
Back at the festival site on the beach, thousands were entertained by the iconic Scottish singer Horse, Nicki French, Allan Jay, Miss Jason, The Freemasons and La Voix among many others.
Peter Tatchell addressed the crowd and spoke of the importance of still spreading the equality message across the country and bringing Prides to new locations each year.
The Community Village was very popular and gave me my favourite moment of the day – watching a mature drag Queen entertain people in the tea tent playing the spoons. It was pure magic!
If you are going to throw a party, make sure you throw a good one. The organisers got everything just about right, from their communications to the media before the event to their first class organisation on the day. Congratulations to everyone involved and here’s to IOW Pride in 2018.
Photos by Robby Dee and James Ledward