Monday 8 June 2020

5 years of Margate Pride

Take Pride 
Writer: Amy Redmond 
Published in: Margate Mercury Summer 2020

Margate has an interesting history of prides. The gaypevine weaves tales of a soggy Bucks Fizz singing on the seafront (after organisers forgot to check the tide times) and of the pride shark that ran off with the fundraising money. 

I’ve spent many years at prides across the world. Dancing on a float with drag queens dressed as Eddie and Patsy, with actual Eddie and Patsy, was a particularly meta pride moment! The work I do centres around providing a safe and wonderful space for women and LGBTQ+ people. When I got involved with the 2016 edit of Margate Pride, I knew it had to be community focused, grassroots, trustworthy and full of love.

While it remains illegal to be gay in 69 countries, and kids are still rejected by families because of their sexuality or gender identity, we will always need Pride. The only way we can provide a pride for everyone, is to talk to as many people as possible. That is just one reason why I have felt honoured to speak to Thanet’s LGBTQ+ community.

Roger is founder of Thanet’s 50+ LGBT group. He describes Thanet in the early years as “grim. You had to be careful. There were a few bars, but it was open the door, look both ways and go straight in. People in the area got to know, so there was always the possibility of danger.” He continues: “In the early days when Margate Pride came into being, it was a poor thing in many ways. Two years ago I was on the parade and I thought ‘this is really nice. What felt so good was the same sort of atmosphere I’d known some years before was there. That sea of people coming down Fort Hill, that told you everything.” 

Founder of LGBT History month, Sue explained, “The early pride marches I went on we were marching for our human rights. Now we have our rights, Pride’s job is very different. London Pride is very commercial, which I’m not comfortable with - we’ve lost the politics. How much do those floats cost? For one afternoon? I could use that money to fund so much work over the year. What’s very important is to involve the community, that’s been beautifully and cleverly managed with Margate Pride”, she reflects. “When you consider that Nigel Farage thought his base was here, with that level of homophobia and racism. What you have proved is that he is in a minority, and what we’ve actually got is a community that is much more inclusive than anyone imagined.” 

Ronnie, who is at school in Westgate, told me: “My first Margate Pride I hadn’t come out yet. I was 13, and I was there with one of my best friends. I was like ‘what just happened? I’ve never seen my town feel like this!’ The last pride, I was there with a girlfriend and it felt like mine; it felt more personal. Pride made me see there is a community behind me. I can be the most honest person I am there; I wore a full rainbow suit! It’s the sort of pride I want to be at.” 

Gina has a bakery in the Old Kent Market. She came to Margate to transition in 2008. “The first three years were hard,” she explains. “I needed to get myself sorted in my head. Getting help was hard at the beginning. Margate life is amazing - I got the bakery in 2016 with my best friend Anita and her kids. I’ve got a good support network here - Margate is like that, that’s why I love it. Pride is just a way of telling people you are proud to be who you are, showing we’re here, we’re part of the community. It’s the people standing alongside us, the grandparents, small children, everyone watching, the whole town gets involved.” 

Alison and BJ remember the Prides in the 80’s: “Lesbian Strength, Hyde Park, always political. Then the creeping crawl of commercialisation, Absolute Vodka, B.A. the RAF. Then off to Brighton, great times, then admission fees, Virgin Atlantic, then ENOUGH.” Last year’s Margate Pride was Alison’s 50th . She reflects: “We all had a stonking good time. Everybody LOVED Margate Pride, the non-commercial, homegrown thing reminded us all of the good old days!” 

Nathan, aka Victoria Carriage said, “Last year was my second Margate Pride. What an incredible day. And for me personally it was the first time my parents had seen me perform on stage in drag. They loved it! I have a real issue with prides at the moment, throwing a pop star on stage, no, that’s a concert. Pride is still a protest. We need to keep it community based. I want family areas at prides, teaching love and acceptance from a young age - ignorance is learnt. Margate Pride is camp, fun, colourful fabulousness. If you want a really good, wholesome, inclusive, vibrant, family, pride by the sea, that’s Margate Pride.” 

Homophobia starts young, so our support of LGBTQ+ people has to start early. A group of local artists started a youth group in 2016, making costumes and floats for pride. It is now run weekly by Kelie at the Be You project, and open to 13-18-year olds. There is also a closed Facebook group called LGBThanet+ run by 18-25-year olds that meet for regular socials. It is such a joy to see these groups thriving. When we all march together at pride you can really feel the community spirit, a genuine support network is forming and it’s incredible. 

Margate Pride will happen in some form on August 8th, no parade, but lots of
community, art projects and outdoors socially distanced events. 

See and follow @margatepride for more details.

Amy Redmond is founder of queer club collective Sink The Pink and Margate Arts Club. She is a member of the Margate Pride committee alongside artist Dan Chilcott, musician Tommy Poppers, event professionals Mia Pollack and Alex Menace. Pride was formed as a collective, with art, community, DIY, grass roots, creative energy at its core.  

Further interviews at her podcast

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5 years of Margate Pride

Take Pride  Writer: Amy Redmond  Published in: Margate Mercury Summer 2020 Margate has an interesting history of prides. The gaypevine weave...