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The Show Must Go On: Nottingham Pride 2020 Moves Online

5 July 20 words: Caroline Barry

With Nottingham’s annual celebration of LGBTQ+ culture put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions, organisers have decided to move Pride 2020 online to provide a unique, innovative way for the community to stay proud... 

Nottingham Pride is one of the highlights of the gay calendar. It’s the one time of the year where we all purchase giant cheap flags, head to Propaganda and have ‘oh, just the one then’ pints in Hockley. It’s also the one time of the year where all your exes can be found on Broad Street at the same time...

But the global pandemic of COVID-19 has thrown Pride celebrations into chaos. News of cancellations, online celebrations and postponed gigs have meant we have no idea where our next parade is coming from. But Leigh Ellis, chair of Nottingham Pride, was determined to make sure Notts celebrated Pride 2020 one way or another.

“We had to cancel it this year because of the current situation, despite thinking that we could probably ride it out. We set a benchmark against Splendour festival and held out for quite some time. When they said it was cancelled, we knew we had to announce shortly after, which is what we did,” Leigh says. “Then we had this dream of maybe taking Nottingham Pride online. We wanted to see how we could celebrate what we've got to look forward to, and also some of the realities that the LGBTQ+ community have faced during the current lockdown, such as increased mental health issues. Our plans are to host a two-hour event that will be broadcast from a place of prominence in Nottingham city. It will include our LGBTQ+ activists, our local artists, and some of our leaders within Nottingham City too.”

An unsurprised community took the news of a cancelled Pride well, as thousands of gigs, shows and events were cancelled across the world. “The reaction was not surprising, but the community has been really supportive and positive. I don't think we've had any negative comments from the LGBTQ+ community and allies, on our Instagram or Twitter. It’s been hugely supportive. So we hope that people will appreciate what we are trying to do,” Leigh explains. 

It’s not just the lost celebration that is creating difficulty for our community. Now, more than ever, it’s important that we buy from gay businesses, support our transgender shop owners or get takeaways from our queer venues where possible. Pride is big business, especially in Hockley, where the majority of Pride celebrations are based. “It does have an economic impact, although we never generate income from the event. But for us, we've always made use of arts grants and lottery funding grants. I don't know what that's going to look like next year, and we may struggle.” Leigh says. “In terms of Hockley, as an independent business area, they will lose so much revenue from this with it being one of their busiest periods and that's a shame as well.”

As an alternative space, Hockley is starting to look very different. The loss of three major gay venues in 2020 is not a good start to what has been a very difficult year. Propaganda, Bar No.27 and Club 96 have all closed their doors meaning we are starting to see a Hockley that doesn’t seem very queer anymore. 

Leigh remembers a different scene from earlier years: “I moved to Nottingham in 1989 when I was 17. Nottingham’s LGBTQ+ scene was thriving – it was subversive and underground.  It was such a magical and exciting time to have been a part of it.”

The loss of safe spaces is disappointing, but there is also the loss of the platform Pride presents to discuss issues within the community, like transgender rights, and Black Lives Matter. Mental health issues have also been on the rise within the LGBTQ+ community as a result of lockdown. Leigh agrees, “We've always made it part of our objectives to be visible, to educate and to celebrate. The education element of it is that we've always provided information, market stalls that generally represent the majority of services that are available to our community, whether it's specifically for them, or it’s something that they're able to access. That’s an opportunity missed this year, particularly with the upsurge in mental health and the discussions around transgender rights and race. That platform is gone this year, and that's a missed chance for discussion.”

So what can the community expect to see from the all-online Nottingham Pride 2020?

Leigh explains, “We've reached out to artists and we always look within Nottingham, because there's a huge pool of talent. We'd like to give the opportunity for people to have a platform to showcase their talents like poetry, music, and performance.” He continues, “We already had a list of people lined up for this year and we're just in the process of contacting all of them now to see what they'd be interested in doing. During lockdown, it's been impressive actually seeing how much of the community have gone online, from drag artists to DJs.”

Nottingham Pride 2020 takes place on Saturday 25 July. You can access the event at:

nottinghamshirepride.co.uk

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