Liverpool Pride returns this weekend (well, it’s sort of here all week – but Saturday’s the day to put your face on and party) and we’re fairly sure it’ll be a big shot in the arm for those of us getting a little bit bored with water polo and archery.

And so, with the long range weather forecast looking good (ok, we’ve just jinxed it), we’re determined to find out where, exactly to head this year. Last year? Well, there was a definite two-camp thing going on – with Stanley Street and the Waterfront battling it out.

Will it come together this year?

“For many, it did feel like a choice between ‘the official pride’ at the Waterfront and the gay scene’s Stanley Street Party,” Pride’s Sean Weaver tells SevenStreets. “Despite working behind the scenes to lobby hard for flexibility from the council and police – it appeared from the outside as if we had abandoned the gay quarter and the result was slightly disconnected and contradicted the whole point of the event.”

The point being? That Pride isn’t just about the LGBT community – it’s not about segregation: but integration. Of all the city’s communities coming together, celebrating diversity, and supporting each other. It’s something Liverpool Pride – just three years old this outing – is passionate about. But, sadly, freedom comes at a cost.

“The one thing many people don’t realise for a number of reasons, largely because Liverpool is such a wonderful city with many free cultural events, is that things don’t just happen. It’s hard work raising sponsorship for the whole event and running of the organisation.

“The bottom line is that last year it boiled down to cost and safety. It became unviable to close Dale Street because, simply, we didn’t have the money. The cost of making the event safe through security, policing and traffic management is so high that we would have ended up with closed streets but no festival.”

So successful was Pride’s first event, in 2010, that Sean admits to a few unscheduled headaches behind the scenes: “there were a number of ‘near misses’ regarding safety and overcrowding and we had to take that into account when we planned for the next one.”

Crucially, Pride never considered a plan B of turning the event into a paid-for, wristband-only party (as Manchester and most other cities have).

“Liverpool Pride is a charity whose aims and objectives are to combat discrimination and advance education and outreach, and we do this by putting on a festival that is free, visible and inclusive. To stay in Dale Street we would have had to put up huge fences, charged an entry fee and capped our attendance. That was never going to happen, that’s not what we’re about.”

This year, in an attempt to bring the two party zones – the Waterfront and Stanley Street – closer, Pride has managed to close a short section of Dale Street, from Vernon Street to Moorfields. With the Stanley Street Quarter receiving official ‘gaybourhood’ status last year, this is the first Pride to be held in the newly rainbow-painted street.

Is there much to celebrate?

“I think it’s a great idea, but it’s still got a long way to go,” says Sean. “ Personally I think the area needs a bit more regeneration in it. At the moment it’s a bit of a dire corridor from the Commercial District to City Central and Liverpool ONE. It needs a bit more definition. But there’s lots of positive stuff coming to the area, and beyond, with two new venues, the great events SSQ organises, and the fabulous food at the Stanley Street Market.”

That said, we fully expect it to look fabulous this weekend – with Superstar Boudour’s finest ladies holding court with Chelcee Grimes and a flotilla of club singers we’ve never heard of, with names like Nikki and Jem. One of them’s had a number one in Russia, so they must be pretty cool, right? We might even take our ear defenders off for a bit.

But it’s down at the waterfront where you’ll probably find us, catching (swoon) Marcus Collins and Liz McClarnon – and those fiesty 2Shoes ladies.

“The March and Waterfront Stage are going to be the highlights for me,” Sean says. “this year it’s better than ever with the fair, our biggest ever market, the addition of the dedicated young person’s area, and lots of stalls and fun for all the family!”

But there’s much more than the day of fun. Tomorrow, Tuesday, sees the LGBT Question Time at FACT, there’s an expertly curated short film season, Pride at the Pictures, and, as mentioned in SevenStreets last week, a new club night, Wet Paint, to add to your social calendars.

“Wet Paint is something we’re working with the folks at the O2 on, some of the proceeds go to Pride, which is great, and it’s different. I miss places like Le Bateau, and the rest of that sort of scene is a bit lacklustre of late so it’s good, and something that’s not catered for too much in Liverpool’s Gay Scene.”

Importantly, events like these are also contributing to Pride’s coffers. And, if you go along this weekend, it’s important that you play your part too.

“With funding cuts and the economy as it is, we’ll have to work hard to maintain what we offer in future years,” admits Sean. “The commercial venues will have to increase their contribution, but it’s also really important that when you donate – don’t just give us your coppers – but give us a few quid and ‘buy pride a drink’ – after all, none of us get to drink on the day!”

We’d say freedom is always worth digging deep for.

Liverpool Pride
August 4 (with events throughout this week)
Various venues

Main pic: Pete Carr
Second pic: Minako Jackson

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