Southampton’s largest LGBT+ Pride free family festival is a fabulous success but are local businesses just taking part …or are they taking advantage?
“LGBT is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” people. The plus sign is used to additionally to encompass extra spectrums of sexuality and gender. (1)
On Saturday 24th August 2019 a splendid parade from Watts Park on Commercial Road set off about 1:30pm and continued through the city centre kicking off the party to celebrate sexual freedom and diversity in one of the UK’s most important cities.
The event location was the Arts Centre, Guildhall, Southampton, SO14 7LPA and it was orchestrated by a group called Pride Southampton. Cunard and P&O Cruises were working in partnership with council leaders to mark the occasion. There was a huge cruise liner ship in the historic harbour on the day of the festivities.(2).
The main stage was set up in the Guildhall Square and a wide variety of musical acts including S club were taking it in turns to entertain the crowds. Artists such as Sam Callahan and Felix Shephard, from BBC X factor fame, took the microphone and there were several bands playing late into the night. Local groups such as the Sing Heart and Soul choir and the local brass band all got involved and contributed creatively. (3)
There was also a separate stage in the Guildhall and an acoustic stage boasting a packed cultural schedule to keep the eclectic and glitter dusted audience happy.
The performances could be heard inside and outside the Guildhall. Some people complained to the organisers the music was too loud inside the building and the organisers soon turned it down a little.
The Southampton Pride team achieved their aim of a positive and memorable family friendly festival for several thousands of people attending on one of the hottest days of the summer. “a smashing day…safe and inclusive.” said Sarah Haigh merrily and “my first Pride – an amazing day” agreed Mikayla Morgan.
John Lewis created a dedicated festival area to show support for this annual celebration and there were colourful displays, face painting and many Partners were working in specially brightly printed T-shirts. Company staff in custom Pride T-shirts decorated with a kaleidoscope of different hair, make-up and accessories enjoyed their day across town.
Shops that got involved included massive stores like Ikea and also smaller businesses like the Pumpkin cafe in the station where a young assistant named Emma explained how she “is very excited and I made sure I am on the early shift so I can go and take part later this afternoon.”
All ages and many people travelled in by train from neighbouring areas to take part. They arrived in Southampton’s main ticket office to be greeted by an inflatable rainbow unicorn and friends who confirmed they had alighted at the correct station.
Not everyone was thrilled about the event and a local man Joey White thought the event was the “the epitome of rainbow capitalism.”
A brilliant time was had by all but are accusations of rainbow capitalism valid? Could corporate businesses be too keen to jump on the bandwagon in order to compete for the ‘pink pound’? Managing directors all over the city certainly seemed keen to cash in on customers visiting the city and spending money this weekend.
It could simply be that companies are simply looking to attract a wide variety of customers and Pride is a good opportunity to ‘pin their colours to the mast.’ Major brands want to let the public know they are an inclusive and pleased to welcome folk from the lesbian,gay, bi-sexual and transgender and (and all those that are still questioning) communities into their establishments.
A major outdoors occasion occurring away from the High Street probably diverted hundreds of regular Saturday shoppers away from their usual favourite stores. All ages of residents looking for fun days out for the family that do not cost them anything were in luck and headed for the Guildhall.
Many other more traditional shoppers may have been put off spending their leisure time and money in Commerical Road and may have actively planned to avoid the city centre as they did not want to get tangled up in unusual crowds of visitors rushing into the city.
The music and the weather were fabulous and most people had a brilliant time at Pride Southampton and are looking forward to next years event. The business community is looking to connect with potential and existing customers in any way they can, so we are sure they will be planning their outfits and activities for Southampton Pride 2020 already.