On Saturday 12th May, Exeter celebrated its 10th Pride, boasting more events, supporters, and rainbow flags than ever before. As one of the biggest celebrations of the LGBTQ+ community in the South West, it promised to provide an “explosion of colour, positivity and pride”. The event certainly exceeded itself, proving a roaring success with such a delightful, upbeat, inclusive and loving atmosphere.
This Pride was actually my first, and I was beyond excited to finally be part of the action; to show my pride for who I was and to celebrate the identities and strength of those around me. Decked in a rainbow flag, numerous badges, and coloured face paint, my friends and I joined the march from its start at Sidwell Community Church. An awe-inspiring display of colours, from balloons, flags and costumes, highlighted our path as we slipped into the chanting crowds. The marching band led the way; dressed in stunning white suits bejewelled with fabric flames, their celebratory drumming provided a dancing beat for the hundreds of excited, energetic marchers. Thousands of us spread our joy across the city and embraced the chance to vocalise our pride for our identities – a pride too often silenced and antagonised by our heteronormative society. The happiness I saw, shared, and felt was truly like no other. With the city brimming with laughter, cheer and smiles, the love was contagious.
A personal highlight was admiring everyone’s outfits. Whether covered in rainbows, glammed up in drag, or adorning a cosplay, it was beautiful to behold such creativity and self-expression. The high-street was awash with colours, feathers, flowers, flags, butterfly wings and glitter: you couldn’t help but smile at the city’s vibrant variety. Everyone looked and felt beautiful, admired, valid and loved. (There was also a dog wearing rainbow feather wings, who I would have protected with my life.)
Once we reached Northernhay, the gardens were packed with stalls, from pizza to politics. There were bouncy castles and face-painting for the youngest of supporters, and human rights stands for the campaigners; Exeter Pride truly catered (not just literally) for a range of ages and identities. The most popular stands including individual charities who were selling pronoun badges, queer-slogan shirts, and even paper roses made from the flag colours – I was ready to spend all my money on becoming a walking, talking, gay pride flag. I’m always cautious of mass corporations who exploit Pride or the rainbow flag as a marketing ploy – who use such consumerism to appeal to the LGBTQ+ community without genuinely representing or supporting their cause – but Exeter Pride focused exclusively on small, independent businesses who were clearly there to show their intense support for their community, and that didn’t go unappreciated.
The weather couldn’t have been lovelier for a drink in the Oddfellows bar, or daisy-chain making and milkshakes in the sun, or for any of the astounding array of events which took place throughout the afternoon and across the city. The ‘Festival Zone’ within the gardens – decorated with rainbow arches – buzzed continuously with bands and performers, such as the Spectrum Choir, Lauren Harries, and The Ferrantes. Meanwhile, the ‘Showcase Stage’ by the Exeter Phoenix centred on local talent, including comedy gigs, drag performances, and the Loud and Queer slam poetry event. With events for every sense of humour or taste in music, the spectacular array of artists only added to the inclusivity and excitement of the day.
Overall, as I danced down the high-street with thousands of the LGBTQ+ community at my side, I’d never felt more proud and happy to consider myself a part of it.
– Eleanor-Rose Gordon