“Well, it all started a week after Pride 2016 finished,” Daryn began. I’d naively started our interview by suggesting that Pride was organised in the sobered haze of New Years’. Daryn helpfully reminded me how much work goes into staging Pride.
The Pride Festival we know today is a relatively recent creation; in 2009, Daryn and others felt the time had come for Britain’s 10th largest city to offer a real Pride, not a piss up in a car-park. (The car park opposite the Pineapple, I’m told).
Now, with wristbands on offer, the festival offers thousands of people the chance to dig the brightest clothes deep out of the wardrobe and join each other for an inclusive programme, from Drag Queens reading children’s stories to the medley of hits from Busted.
Pride is a registered charity and it’s thanks to the over 100 volunteers that the festival continues.
Planning for this year’s festival began with feedback – 2016 marked the first year for the festival at the Amphitheatre. While Pride-goers loved the size of the site, the loss of the Castle Park landscape left people wanting. It’s tricky though – how do you pitch a festival on paving outside a bank? “Our artists created unique pieces that will hang from the lamp posts – then we made detailed plans of how we would transform the site overnight.”
But who to invite? How does one go about booking Belinda Carlisle? “I’m a fan of Belinda’s both in terms of her music and her outspoken advocacy of LGBT+ rights. Booking Belinda was a real ‘FINALLY’ moment for us.” In order to keep Pride going, Daryn needed to make the festival bigger. The idea was to have an additional night and so Pride Presents: Belinda Carlisle, was born. Selling tickets to the new night, Daryn tells me, helps to keep Pride growing in the Bristol so that 2018 can be bigger still.
“It’s really important for Bristol Pride to retain its place as a festival with a purpose. I wanted entertainers that would further reinforce our message of openness and acceptance and be roles models for that message.”
Another inspired booking was Charlotte Church, who will bring her Late Night Pop Dungeon to the O2 Academy. Expect a high-octane, high-camp show – a staple feature for Pride. “She has really impressed me with her advocacy for many causes,” Daryn explained, “and Charlotte will be amazing; she’ll blow your glitter off”.*
Busted, Daryn tells me, came about because he was keen to see male allies on stage too.
By March, most of the big events were finalised and Daryn and volunteer Jayne rushed off to the annual Flare Film Festival in London to survey the latest in LGBT+ movies. Whether joining conversations on sexuality in later life, chemsex, teenage angst, the place of gay marriage, the films Daryn and Jayne chose are an illuminating look at sexuality in 2017.
Also in March, less excitingly, Daryn booked a few miles of road. Last year, 6,000 people and 60 organisations joined the march, up 20% from the year below. “Trying to work out how much road to book so that everyone can fit on the route, while walking at a gentle pace is not an easy task,” Daryn tells me.
Diversity is always a feature of Bristol’s Pride. Bristol was one of the first to include a dog show: it’s almost a zany marriage between Eurovision and Crufts. High-stakes silliness.
Then there’s LGBT Gaming: an opportunity for people who want a space other than a club to celebrate. “There’s a huge online gaming space for LGBT people and we wanted to support a physical space so everyone would want to be part of Pride,” Daryn added.
I asked, with a year of hard effort, is Pride worth it? “Shockingly, hate crime against the LGBT community has risen in the last few years. There were also more physical attacks in Bristol the last year. I don’t want those things to affect people’s enjoyment of Pride – but I do want as many LGBT people to come out and enjoy themselves as a testament to how strong and vibrant our community is. Particularly for those people who can’t. Rights are spread by people with them, using them. I hope people will be inspired to volunteer for one of the many charities represented at the festival.”
And, by the time this is published, Daryn will already be working out how to top everything you’ve just read in time for Bristol Pride 2018.
*Charlotte Church has unfortunately had to withdraw from her performance at the O2 Academy