Liverpool’s gay scene. It’s not exactly been in the pink over the past 18 months or so. Hate crimes. Dodgy doormen. Openings and closings. All set against dithering plans for a ‘Village’.

But guess what? As the girl said – it’s still here. And if that isn’t reason to celebrate, nothing is.

March against homophobiaNot that this weekend’s inaugural Liverpool Gay Pride event is all about the parties and the poppers. It’s about pride: pride in how the community, and its friends, came together to weather the storms and, following the death of Michael Causer, and homophobic attack on James Parkes, united in a show of solidarity, defiance and, well, ultimately, love. Because that’s really all you need.

So if you’re out and about this weekend, SevenStreets hopes you strike a pose: for equality, safety and Sambuca shooters.

But, hey, do us a favour. Stay out of Shaggers’ Alley. Really, nothing good can come of it.

As Pride kicks off, we spoke to one of the event’s organisers, James Davies, and its official photographer – and man about town – Matt Ford. We thought it best to speak to them now. We can only imagine how messy things are going to get over the next 48 hours…

Tell us about yourselves, and your involvement in Pride.

James: I used to work for the Home Office for a few years and before that I studied journalism at John Moores University, I knew some of the other people involved in organising the event back when Liverpool Pride was just two words on a page and agreed to get involved. A few months later I decided to leave, to work on Pride full time with our events company, Orb Events.

Matt: I’m a photographer who’s affiliated with the Liverpool GLBT scene as I have worked on two Homotopia Festivals, the poster pictures for this year’s Pride and the pictures and design for this year’s Vogue ball. I’ve done lots of stuff for Garlands too.

Why is the event important?

M: The event is hugely important to the LGBT community by reminding us ‘Scouse gays’ that despite the recent homophobic attacks we really do have great support and acceptance from our city. It will also push Liverpool LGBT scenes great need to be put on the map. By letting first time visitors from neighboring cites, including their general public and leisure industry investors, see how far the city has come. Hence showing the potential in giving Liverpool’s gay Quarter a much needed facelift.

Is Liverpool’s gay community as well served as it could be?

J: I think Liverpool’s gay community doesn’t shout loudly enough. We have large gay scene, a youth group, as well as art and film festivals. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, Liverpool Pride has enabled people from across our community to come together and speak with one voice.

M: Unfortunately some of Liverpool’s gay clubs/bars are ran by indifferent owners that don’t seem bothered about keeping the gays happy, but are solely influenced about making a quick buck off anyone willing to neck back a watered down shot of Sambuca and get photographed with a tranny. I’ve heard over the 10 years I’ve socialized in Liverpool a million answers to this problem and seen new potentially great clubs/bar come and go, but the venues mentioned before always seems to dominate the market.

As far as LGBT arts and culture, Homotopia has triumphed year after year for providing Liverpool with alternatives to the teen and early 20’s dominated bar scene. I hope Pride will finally be an event to bring together these two very different and separate LGBT groups; as there doesn’t seem to be anything else that lies in the middle.

Obviously, Manchester’s gay village is a big (commercial) success – but is that model what you think Liverpool needs, or do you think we need something different?

J: Gay bars have always tended to be independently owned which means that gay scenes have avoided becoming clones. Every city’s gay scene has its own style. I wouldn’t want to lose that.

It’s easy enough for all but the most flamboyant to drink in anywhere these days, so gay bars and clubs need to think about what makes them unique. The cultural and nightlife elements of the gay scene are starting to work closely together so people see everything the city has to offer.

M: Manchester’s first Pride in 1990 was aimed at highlighting the legal and political struggles of LGBT communities. Not forgetting the horrific but thankfully occasional homophobic outbursts, society’s attitude toward the GLBT community has come a long long way. So it feels like Liverpool’s first Pride should be about celebrating and sharing the community and thankfully not concentrating on trying to change people’s opinions!

Manchester Pride’s ticket sales have raised huge amounts of money and awareness for GLBT charities year after year, which sets a great example. With Liverpool’s Pride being a free event it really gives the important message, ‘this event is welcome to everyone’. But if Liverpool Pride proves itself as a ‘must attend’ event that can justify a ticket fee, I would be more than happy to pay to attend. Especially if it was going for a good cause.

Have the recent homophobic attacks had any legacy – positive or negatively?

J: Although the trial didn’t find any evidence of homophobic motivation, the murder of Michael Causer was a real wake up call for people in Liverpool. Meeting the Causer Family has been an inspiration. The Michael Causer Foundation is now looking to set up a safe house for young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are homeless or at risk of being made homeless. Whilst homophobic attacks will always remain a tragedy, it’s amazing to watch people react in such a positive way.

M: The general community in Liverpool’s feeling towards the two recent attacks were of outrage. There was a clear message that nobody thought this was going to be brushed under the carpet.

Is the gay scene overly dominated by nightlife and bars – what about those who don’t want ‘all shooters a pound’ and Kylie remixes all night?

J: Homotopia, the queer arts festival is in its seventh year whilst Outsiders runs a LGBT film festival, there’s even a gay football team, the Mersey Marauders. FACT hosts its ‘Gay Sunday’ once a month with curatorial talk around their exhibitions and a gay-themed film. FACT’s Gay Sunday was the inspiration for our ‘Chill Out Sunday’ arts programme; Joan Burnett of FACT has helped coordinate a whole range of activities across art galleries and museum on Sunday, 8th August.

M: We have always been in need for much varied and less stereotypical gay bars in Liverpool. There are plenty of straight bars in Liverpool that do not announce they are gay friendly but I have rarely ever felt unwelcome in them even if I’m out with, let’s face it, some of my blatantly gay mates – you know who you are. I’ve not always found this in other cities, which makes Liverpool a great place, but unfortunately has created a catch 22 situation and reduced the drive to introduce decent gay bars to the city. Can we really have it both ways?

prideFinal shout…

J: There’s a ‘gay drain’ to cities like Manchester and London because people have this perception that Liverpool isn’t a gay friendly city. In 2008, the city’s Capital of Culture year, people started to question why this wasn’t something we were already doing. Even smaller towns and cities have had a Pride for a number of years. So now it’s our turn.

We’ve put on three stages and you can expect music, colour, laughter and a whole lot of fun. We’ve gone all out to make sure people won’t be disappointed! Pride is here to stay.

M: It might not seem relevent, but the tattooed ‘strong man’ used on the photo shoot for the posters isn’t gay. I think the local guy’s willingness to help promote a gay event has ended up being the perfect way to highlight the positive attitude towards GBLT in Liverpool and should be used as an example to those stragglers who haven’t realised we’re all one community. When the model said “Nah, I don’t mind doing it, who cares!” it reminded me of why I love Liverpool’s famously open minded attitude towards just about anybody.

That, at least, is something definitely worth celebrating.

Liverpool Pride
7-8 August, throughout the city
(March, 2.30pm on Saturday, 7th August from St. George’s Plateau)

For a full list of events, see the Liverpool Pride wesbite

  • wales4u

    well we had a fantastic time at pride liverpool on the 7th,the entertainment was great,but getting into some of the bars was a nightmare,should of had some restrictions on numbers of customers allowed inside the venues!!also a bit if a shock to us was somebody stole our mobile phone while we were watching the last act on the main stage!!it was our first ever pride,and to think that somebody of our own class could do this is a bitter disapointment,so we don`t have the happy photos that we should of had just bad memories!!!thanks who ever you are and you know who you are!!!!!!

  • Streets

    Sorry to hear that happened – however, in the name of balance, we’ve heard overwhelmingly positive things about people’s experiences at this year’s Pride and crime was low overall considering the turnout.

    The crowd restrictions in bars was always going to be a tough one, though, with the amount of people attending. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s handled next year.

  • Paul Connolly

    To be honest, i’ve haven’t always felt part of Liverpool’s gay scene. But this year i bit the bullet and volunteered for the march and festival- what a revelation! The reception we received on the march really touched me and is something i will remember forever.
    I’ve never experienced so many different tribes of LGBT persons all coming together and putting on such a positive front. It made me not only proud to be gay, but proud to be from Liverpool. It would be nice if we could build on this and carry on that spirit 365 days a year.
    I’ve attended Pride in both London and Manchester and our’s had a feel all of it’s own. Liverpool is supposedly renowned for it’s individuality and creativity and that is definitely the direction in which we should be going and resist commercial interests and what other cities are up to.
    I can’t wait for next year and i urge people to get involved as much as they can.