Today I attended the first ever Southend Pride event, even though it was only for just over one hour.
For the background to my attending this event, check out my “Why (And How) Christians Should Celebrate Pride” blog article. It happened I needed to go to town anyway but the fact the event was happening (part of a week of events) gave me extra incentive. Besides which, I knew I would likely meet up with old friends and I had a professional and ideological interest, having organized not so dissimilar events in the past. The event could be divided into two parts: a march along the High Street, starting from the Royals shopping centre at 12pm and ending up at Warrior Park, for a rest of the day event where there was a variety of stalls, food and refreshments, activities for the family and an all day musical program. The park event was scheduled to run until early evening.
Regarding the march, it was peaceful, well run and good humoured and I got to speak to old friends. There seemed to be a good number of participants, more women than men and some children, representing many organizations. I got the impression the majority who were in the High Street were not part of the event but were sympathetic and in cases a bit bemused that the march was going on. I couldn’t help noting two contrasting “Christian” presences in the High Street. One was following an old fashioned gospel preaching theme, likely happening because of the event, by way of attempting to provide a correction. The other was led by three minister, all friends of mine, who I was aware were active in the community, although not on LGBT matters, who in any case and unlike the other group were sympathetic with the event aims. I enjoyed our brief chat and it had little to do with the Pride march. I have a view which approach I preferred but this for later discussion.
Later, arriving in the Park, I found the event was in full flow. As one with an interest in event organization, I was impressed with what was going on and how the organizers had made good use of the limited space available. It really was a superb show and while my critical eye might suggest ways to improve next time, the main thing (it seemed to me) the event succeeded in meeting its objectives, to provide a fun day for the community and putting across the Pride message. I got to meet a number of friends and made a good contact when it came to addressing LGBT homelessness. On leaving the Park, and speaking with yet another old friend, I found nearly 2000 people had been clocked in, and it was still not quite 2pm.
I was glad to have attended. While my views on LGBT matters are as they are (and I do have concerns when people who politely express similar views are shut down – again for another time discussion), I was pleased that LGBT folk could be part of an event they could call their own, and be made to feel a valued part of Southend’s diverse community. I congratulate event organisers for putting on a superb show that was safe, friendly and eye opening. Going back to the days when I helped organise events aimed at bringing the community together, it was heartening to witness an event that successfully attempted to do just that. Given LGBT discrimination is still a factor in our society, I quite get why there are events like Southend Pride.
I was heartened by the way the organisers went about their business, with panache and grace, reaching out as they did to the wider community, helping fulfill the vision organizers of events I was once involved with had: to help bring about a community in harmony.