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A gorgeous seaside location, a community known for their tolerance and diversity, and celebrating a quarter of a century of Pride Marches, which is a huge milestone – what could possibly go wrong at this year’s Brighton Pride?Well, with the infamous British summers, Pride can be hit or miss. I went to Pride events in England where it poured down on us, and then there were years when I went to Pride events and got sun burnt. In England, it can go either way, and when my plane touched down in the middle of a rain storm on a chilly summer morning, I was worried. Would the epic Pride weekend I was hoping for get rained out?But I didn’t have anything to worry about: I woke up to bright blue skies on Friday morning and it seemed all of Brighton was already in a festive spirit, even though the main festivities wouldn’t start until Saturday.Usually, around 160,000 spectators line the streets for the parade, but with the event’s big anniversary, close to 200,000 people were expected to attend Pride this year. The 2015 motto was Carnival Of Diversity, honoring Brighton’s diverse and open-minded LGBT community. I really couldn’t have chosen a better occasion to return to one of my favorite cities in England (but more on Brighton later).The city had already felt super festive when I arrived on Thursday, with more rainbow flags flying around town than I’ve seen at any other Pride event I ever attended (and I am not exaggerating here!). That reminded me of just how liberal and nonjudgmental Brighton was. Kids with two mommies or two daddies were nothing out of the ordinary here, and a local friend told me her 9-year old had a boy in his class who had a gender change over the summer – and when it was announced at school, nobody even bat an eye. Brighton, as accepting as ever.So it shouldn’t have surprised me that each and every business was flying rainbow flags and that the city is home to one of the biggest Pride festivities in the country – in fact the second biggest after London Pride – but that said, not even London has the same kind of festival atmosphere that you have in Brighton.Brighton parties the entire weekend. And Brighton parties hard. From the opening parties on Friday night until the early hours of Monday morning, the entire city feels like a huge festival ground. A massive festival ground is set up in Preston Park, complete with a funfair! That’s where the main party takes place on Saturday, and the celebrations in Preston Park feel almost more like a music festival instead of a Pride event – but more on that below. The other party hot spot is in Kemptown, Brighton’s gay neighborhood, where during the village street party on Saturday and Sunday thousands celebrate in the streets, DJs spin records outside of bars and bartenders mix drinks right on the sidewalk.And then there is the parade, which was so colorful and vibrant that I never once got tired of watching float after float go by. While there was a number of floats that were all about being jolly and celebrating how far the LGBT community had come over the past 25 years since the first small Pride March in Brighton, there were also organizations reminding us that there are still 70 countries in which homosexuality is a crime – not to mention the five countries in which homosexuality is punished with death penalty.The range of floats was very divergent: political organizations campaigning their purposes, fun floats including gay and lesbian dance groups, cheerleaders, LGBT divers, runners, etc., and the people who came out to watch the parade were just as diverse: families, groups of friends, same-sex couples as well as straight couples – it was amazing to see how many people (and dogs!) had come out to show their support for the LGBT community. The parade made its way from the seafront (a slightly altered route and a delayed start due to a suspicious package that was found on the parade route) to Preston Park. After watching it for a while we made our way along with the floats towards Preston Park, as did a big part of the crowd.By the time we arrived in Preston Park, the festival grounds were already packed and the festive atmosphere was infectious. I don’t know any other Pride event that feels as much like a music festival as Brighton Pride does, and we started exploring the grounds.Preston Park’s festival grounds are big enough to fit tens of thousands of people – some of the tents alone fit up to 8,000 people, just to give you an idea of how big the area is. In addition to various dance tents and a cabaret tent you can find bar tents here, lots of food stalls, some smaller stalls that sell Pride merch, lots of carousels and thrill rides, and the main Pride stage.The line-up shows how big of a festival Brighton Pride is: every year, the organizers manage to attract top acts and chart toppers like The Human Leage, Mary Lambert, Ella Henderson, and British pop stars Ms Dynamite and Tulisa.On the DJ front, Fatboy Slim was the biggest name and had no difficulties in making the crowds dance, and the ladies were ecstatic when Ruby Rose took over the turntables in the Girls Dance Tent, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed by her hot looks DJ skills. About 40,000 people enjoy the DJs and performance acts here, and I loved seeing how many non-LGBT people had joined the festivities. Some people might be turned off by having to pay for the festival, but at £16 I found the tickets to be more than reasonably priced, considering how much you got for it: all the DJs, the acts, the rides, and not to forget all the logistics and security necessary to organize an event like this. Later on, we joined the 30,000 people that were roaming the streets of Kemptown where the Village Party went on until Sunday morning, long after Preston Park had closed. Kemptown is where all of Brighton’s gay bars and clubs are located, and places like Revenge, the Terrace Bar, A Bar, Camelford Arms, Legends Bar, the Queens Arms and Charles Street Bar were all packed, with people dancing inside and spilling out onto the streets which had been blocked off for cars and limited for pedestrians. While Pride usually slows down on the third day, Brighton Pride was still going strong on Sunday and I was impressed with everyone’s stamina, considering that some people were still dancing when I was already having breakfast. But by late afternoon, Kemptown was packed again, and the street party continued with people flirting, dancing, drinking and enjoying the sunny weather. When I left Brighton the next morning, I was still brimming with excitement, event though I was utterly exhausted after this party weekend. As a festival lover, I loved how much this weekend – especially Saturday in Preston Park – felt like a music festival, with tens of thousands of music lovers coming together to dance, sing along, drink and celebrate, no matter if gay or straight.I have no doubt that I will be back in Brighton for Pride.
Where to stay
If you want a B&B experience that’s a bit different from the traditional British B&Bs, I highly recommend staying at the funky Snooze, conveniently located in Kemptown – close to the Village Street Party, but still far away enough to get a good night’s sleep. If you are on a tighter budget, the newly opened YHA Hostel is the perfect choice, located a 1-minute walk from the beach, right in the center of the action, and a 2-minute walk from the Kemptown Village Party.
For up-to-date information on next year’s line-up, the parade route and other Pride events, visit Brighton-Pride.org. I visited Brighton as part of the fabulous Must Love Festivals project. Many stay was organized with the support of VisitBritain and Expedia. All opinions are my own.