13th July | Clifton Downs
Bristol’s Pride Day celebrations saw a successful move away from Millennium Square and Lloyd’s Amphitheatre up to Clifton Downs. Not only did it facilitate a substantially bigger crowd but it also scaled up the scope of what the event could offer. Potentially, it also helped prevent one or two people walking towards We The Curious and getting the wrong idea.
It had all of the life-affirming diversity you could hope for, as well as a pleasing uniformity of rainbow attire, ‘Love Is Love’-sloganned clothing, glitter and, more topically, lots of people wearing large yellow stickers either declaring ‘bollocks’ to leaving the European Union or to one particular candidate for the Conservative leadership, who shall remain nameless. Suffice to say that alliteration was involved and Malcolm Tucker on The Thick Of It referred to him as a ‘twenty-stone binbag of giblets in a Brian Jones wig’.
As well as the usual Main Stage and Cabaret Stage, there were smaller stages showcasing local talents, and a circus skills tent. It turned into a Silent Disco between seven and nine pm, looking like a perfect spot of shaded solace for tired revellers who’d been basting in their own afternoon sweat. Seeing the attentive crowd for Drag Queen Story Time at the Family Area was über-cute. Realising that the assembled primary- and pre-schoolers were being treated to a rendition of We’re Going On A Bear Hunt raised an extra smile. One day, those littluns will even know what situational irony is.
The Main Stage was held together by the exemplary MC duties of Boogaloo Stu, whose first task was to introduce Shay Freedom from Southern California. He was a good match for the sober, sentient, early-afternoon crowd, bringing history and philosophy, as well as joy to the stage. No disco bangers here, but plenty of lyrical acumen and bags of energy. J’Adele galvanised the first singalong of the day with ‘When We Were Young’ (and basically every other Adele track). Deafkid encouraged the first sign-along of the day, to his sign language rap number, ‘Don’t Kill Our Summer Vibe’. The challenge of not making a dog’s breakfast of the signing meant that the summer vibe’s life was in the balance for a bit, but we got the hang of the correct motions eventually (ish).
Boney M rolled back the years and confirmed once and for all that people that try to sing the words to Boney M songs only really know the chorus. Berlin-based Nina raised the tempo with a powerful synthwave set, a classic example of the undercard often stealing the show. You could see many people making a mental note to check out more of Nina’s tracks when they got home, before erasing the mental note with canned G&T. The prize for ‘Costume Almost As Fab As Boogaloo Stu’ certainly went to Saara Aalto and the presence of Sonique, the first ever Bristol Pride headliner in 2010, brought more than just nostalgia and pleasing symmetry.
A1 were celebrating their twentieth anniversary. They must occasionally wish that people didn’t especially favour their cover of ‘Take On Me’ and they did well not to react when a large proportion of the crowd attempted that high note on “I’ll be gone” with assorted vocal tributes to laryngitis, cornered animals and puberty. Dr Meaker were just what any party needs after seven hours: a mighty blast of invigorating energy. Much as the crowd showed genuine and rapturous love and appreciation for the night’s final two acts, nothing made Bristol Pride go off like Dr Meaker’s rabble-rousing, crazed drum and bass.
The collaboration of Melanie C and Sink The Pink dressed as the other Spice Girls brought the expected mix of humour and humility that she always seemed to add to the spice rack. She played up recent memories of the Spice Girls’ Ashton Gate show, particularly how it was “fuckin’ chuckin’ it down” then, so it was great to be back in front of a loved-up and dry crowd. So loved-up were they that Sophie Ellis-Bextor could possibly have come on and sung the words to The Highway Code in a monotone and they’d have forgiven her. As it was, they loved her for her charisma, the crispness of her vocal and how, every time she opened her mouth to sing, another crowd-pleasing anthem came out.
Hats off to Daryn Carter for his tenth and last Pride Day as organiser. Days like this one ought to make us feel genuinely proud. Cue Heather Small vocal…
If that Nina set lovingly nibbled your ears, then check out her video for ‘Sleepwalking’ here: