Sunday, July 25, 2010

The largest free festival in Belfast ...

Belfast Pride Festival logo

This blog mentions a good number of festivals each year.

Last night saw the launch of this year's "largest free festival in Belfast" ... Belfast Pride. It's twenty years since the first pride parade through Belfast. To mark the milestone, the organisers produced a half hour documentary Pride, Sweat and Tears looking back at the parades and the festival that grew out of it.

Pride marches around the world are very much small 'p' political events, asserting people's rights and making a collective and proud stand against prejudice that remains in most societies. Last night's launch was an opportunity for Belfast's current Lord Mayor, Councillor Pay Convery, to turn up and support the local LGBT community. Speaking before the screening, he commented on Belfast City Council's support for the Pride Festival, the economic and cultural benefit to Belfast, as well as praising the "ongoing work of the LGBT community in making Belfast a more inclusive and welcoming city".

Together with archive footage of the first parade, participants over the years recalled their experiences, hopes and fears. Last year's Lord Mayor of Belfast Naomi Long and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness made strong contributions through their filmed interviews. There was space too in the short film to examine the protests that have accompanied each Belfast Pride parade. In the film respect was voiced for the right to protest. However the sight of church groups turning their backs as protesters passed, as well as some more aggressive interventions, lacked grace and dignity. It was humorously commented that Rev David McIlveen has probably been to more pride marches than many of the current organisers!

Hopefully the film will get other outings (pun unintended!) and a wider audience. Last week, Belfast Pride ran a short film festival in the newly-beige Baby Grand, including Milk.

You'll find two events in the Europa Hotel on Monday night (26 July). Amnesty International's Annual Pride Lecture will be given by Senator David Norris at 6.30pm. He was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in Ireland (elected to Seanad Éireann in 1987) and has recently declared himself an independent candidate to succeed Mary McAleese as Irish President. Later, at 8pm, Pride Talks Back with a panel of guests answering questions from the assembled audience.

Update - Patrick Corrigan has posted a good summary of the event on the Amnesty NI blog. The final panel consisted of Bairbre de Brún (SF MEP), Anna Lo (Alliance MLA), Basic McCrea (UUP MLA), Conall McDevitt (SDLP MLA), Rev David McIlveen (Free Presbyterian church) and Senator David Norris. The DUP continued to fail to provide a representative to participate in the annual LGBT politics event. Rev David McIlveen comes out of it much more humanely than his media persona sometimes suggests.

The actual parade meanders through the city centre (slightly rerouted due to the Streets Ahead roadworks) on Saturday 31 July. The parade leaves Custom House Square at 2pm, where there is music beforehand (from noon) and afterwards - including UK Eurovision Song Contest entrant (came second last) Scooch.

There's a Church Service in All Soul's in Elmwood Avenue on Sunday 1 August at 3pm in partnership with Changing Attitude Ireland and The Gathering.

And as mentioned in the video clip above, Belfast Pride is expanding into the theatre, with a week long run for Philip Ridley's new play Vincent River at the Crescent Arts Centre.

Until July 30, a photographic exhibition looking back at the twenty years of Pride marches in Belfast is on display in Belfast Central Library.

The full range of festival events are listed on the Belfast Pride website.


Anonymous said...

Lets hope the police are as strict about NO alcohol as they were on the 12th of July.

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

Well the Pride organisers are pretty clear that alcohol isn't welcome.

Please note that alcohol is not to be consumed along the parade route whether walking or on a float and any beverages of an intoxicating nature that have been purchased in Custom’s House Square must not be taken on the route. Why? It’s illegal to drink on the street and the police will take action against anyone found drinking along the route whether they be on a float or on the road.

They've a load of conditions for anyone/organisation in the parade, including:

22. Any person(s) taking part in the parade displaying nudity, simulated sex or acting in any lewd way will be pulled out of the parade and will take no further part. They may also be liable to prosecution under the public decency act. This might affect your entire entry continuing to take part and may affect future year’s participation in the parade.

Interestingly, they add ...

23. Racist, sexist, ageist, political, religious and homophobic material will not be allowed in the Parade. Comments relating to specific individuals and their beliefs are strictly forbidden, if displayed will result in immediate removal. This might affect your entire entry continuing to take part and may affect future year’s participation in the parade.

... which must limit what the Changing Attitude Ireland paraders can say on their banner!