Energetic parades, vibrant entertainment and hopefully a dash of sun – Miriam Balanescu finds out what’s on at this year’s Cambridge Pride
For anyone who has been to a Pride event, you will know the surge of joy that comes with being a part of it. Cambridge Pride takes inclusivity as its pillar, carefully planned to help everyone, no matter what age, gender or background, feel at home.
“Towns and cities in East Anglia are much more spaced out than elsewhere in the country,” says Paul Hyde-Clarke, chair of Cambridge Pride. “We needed to create an event where people could travel from far and wide to one place, to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.”
Cambridge Pride is still young. Now in its second year, its first edition was pre-pandemic, in 2019. Paul was initially involved with the Pink Festival, and brought on board by what would become the Pride committee. “We’d always talked about doing something more like what people expect from a Pride event,” he says. “But at the time, big Pride events like London and Birmingham had become very commercial and didn’t seem to reflect the whole LGBTQ+ community. It didn’t feel inclusive. Ten years on, we saw that the Pride movement had begun to change.”
What Cambridge Pride has in common with the Pink Festival is that entertainment and fun are a route towards unifying communities. “Music is a great equaliser,” says Paul. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what your sexuality or gender is, music is something that everybody enjoys.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need Pride,” Paul continues. “One of the reasons it’s important is that in East Anglia there aren’t a lot of opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community to get together. There used to be a big scene with pubs, bars and clubs. There are still people that feel like they don’t fit in. We’re not at a point yet where everybody is completely comfortable with being who they are.”
Each area at this year’s Pride is painstakingly planned to give everyone in Cambridge’s myriad communities a space. Veering off from the main stage, there will be a community hive peppered with local organisations, a youth and family area, art sessions, free wellbeing sessions (including meditation and yoga), food and drink stalls, topped off by the park parade taking centre stage on Jesus Green. The Commonwealth Games baton will even arrive at its final destination at the event.
“It’s something everybody can get involved with, no matter their mobility or ability,” says Paul. “It’s got a summer fete feel – we want it to be as relaxed and accessible as possible.” Smaller – and perhaps closer-knit – than Pride events elsewhere, the event is merely the beginning for Cambridge Pride, a day set to get bigger and better as the years go on.
Cambridge Pride will take place at Jesus Green on 9 July.
Up Your Street
When Diarmuid Hester, an academic and writer, moved to Cambridge, he felt a sense of absence. In contrast to Brighton’s bustling queer scene, Cambridge had a lack of obvious LGBTQ+ spaces.
“I thought it was a matter of being a stranger in a new town,” says Diarmuid. “But I talked to friends, and they said it can feel like a fragmented community.”
Armed with his literary knowledge, Diarmuid set out to document the city’s queer past, teaming up with friend and audio producer David Bramwell to create A Great Recorded History.
The tour traces Cambridge’s queer history through literary extracts from E.M. Forster and Ali Smith, to interviews illuminating a past life of discos, feminist activism and campaigning for gay equality.
Diarmuid stresses that, as a personal experiment, A Great Recorded History is born out of his own interests. The city’s queer history is endlessly expansive, from the work of Alan Turing to the gay spies Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess. “I hope that it’s something that will spur people on,” he says.
First launched in 2019, the tour’s success has led Diarmuid to recut a new, even more accessible version, which also spills into his academic work. “The history of queer people has been marginalised and obscured, sometimes necessarily, in order to evade prosecution and persecution,” he explains. Now at a point when this hidden history can be reclaimed, Diarmuid has also been compelled to create new queer spaces in the present, namely Club Urania, an LGBTQ+ events organisation. “I see Club Urania following on from the tradition of creating a space where people can meet, find solidarity and community.”
A Great Recorded History is free to download prickupyourears.net/a-great-recorded-history
Sing a Rainbow
The choir harmonising the LGBTQ+ community
“Putting yourself out there and showing up to a new group is difficult,” Matthijs, Sing Out’s newest member, muses. The choir, in operation since 2017, could not be more all-embracing, however. Founded by Kite Trust members, the group aims to weave disparate strands of Cambridgeshire’s queer community together.
“Janie and I knew each other through [LGBTQ group] Sisteract,” says long-time member Alison. “But we didn’t mix with gay men or trans groups.” Sing Out, whose repertoire spans Disney to niche records, joins the LGBTQ+ dots. With drop-in rehearsals in Downing Church, each week sees different combinations of the choir’s 150 or so members in attendance.
Janie is a core choir member. “When I was coming out in the 80s, Clause 28 was still enforced,” she says. “What I love is mixing with younger members – they are so confident and proud, so sure of their sexuality and gender identity. I find that really uplifting.”
Most significantly, Sing Out is a safe space for its members, from those transitioning (and experiencing voice changes) to those unsure of their sexuality. From flash mobs to winter fairs, the choir offers opportunities to resound across the region.
With singing increasing Covid-19 transmission, the pandemic posed a challenge. Rehearsals were relocated to Jesus Green. “We got applauded by the local drunks who used to hang around the toilets,” Janie recalls.
Back in full swing, one of Sing Out’s youngest choristers says: “It’s the only organisation in Cambridge that I’ve ever been a part of that successfully brings together students, non-students and people from broad areas of Cambridgeshire. We’re all united in this thing. When we get it right with the harmonies, it makes you very emotional.”