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    First Published: Before August 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

Christopher Kelly reports on a brilliant Mardi Gras 2000

It was a typical English summer's day. Not a sky in the cloud. However, the morning was immediately brightened by the news that homophobic bomber David Copeland had begun a goal term of six life sentences the previous afternoon. You couldn't help smiling at the irony. Justice had been served for breakfast on the day of the 28th annual gay pride march through London.

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Fronted by veterans of the Gay Liberation Front, the march went off with the obligatory whistle blowing and whoopla. However, as the parade passed a designated "area of reflection" many of the participants became subdued as they remembered those killed and injured in the Soho blast of April last year. At the parade’s end in Victoria, approximately 60,000 people headed north-east to party in Finsbury Park for Mardi Grass 2000.

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By the time I had arrived there, the place was packed. People of all shapes, sizes and sexualities filtered around the park dressed in outfits ranging from next-to-nothing to over-the-top. I headed for the Blessings Tent where I had arranged to meet up with friends. I had imagined the place to be kitsch and camp. Instead the space was sparse and sad, and as exciting as a Sunday school outing (all tambourines and knitwear). Luckily my friends arrived before the collection plate was handed round and, as all the saints marched in, we quickly made off.

We should've stayed. We'd only been wandering around for a few minutes when it started to bucket down. We rushed to the nearest stall for shelter. The Socialist Party hadn't attracted such an interest since the '70s. Promising a donation, we huddled under their tarpaulin, singing the "Red Flag" while waiting for the storm to subside. I suggested that the stall provide Socialist Party pac-a-macs next year. After 10 minutes or so the downpour died out and we trudged off through the mud. For a while at least, Mardi Gras had become Glastonbury – with accessories.

We decided to lift our spirits by sinking some. As my friend returned from the bar, he grumbled that the pink pound was much like the ruble, it converted into next to nothing. Finding ourselves outside the DTPM tent, we ventured in. The place was rammed. There wasn't room to swing a mood. All you could move were your bowels. Deciding it was too full-on, we headed out, just in time to catch Stephen Gately bouncing about the main stage in leather and shades. Festival promoter, Jeremy Joseph appeared next and uttered two words that sent the queens squealing: "Kylie Minogue!"

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"We're all here for equality", said Kylie, with her hair looking fiery. The Australian strumpet then introduced various acts (including All Saints and Steps), before launching into a spontaneous performance of 'Spinning Around' (which must've taken absolutely hours to rehearse). And I could’ve sworn that somewhere along the way Bananarama blasted back from the past. But by then, along with the vast majority of the crowd, I had become cerebrally squiffy.

The undisputed star of the main stage was the newly inaugurated mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. With an attitude as casual as his dress, Ken pledged to rid the police of homophobia and promised that gay and lesbian Londoners could register there partnerships and be "recognized as equal". Although the register won’t have any immediate legal significance, Ken was later reported as saying he hoped the move would lead to a broader societal acceptance toward gay and lesbian equality in the future.

Queers were moved to tears.

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As the sun shone on the last of the party’s proceedings, peoples' minds were in as much disarray as their dress. While some still displayed extraordinary amounts of energy, throwing themselves around the various dance tents like deranged Duracell Bunnies, others sprawled motionless in the mud, barely able to maintain the poise of a puddle. These people had clearly reached the end of the rainbow. The fun, however, had only just begun, with thousands intending to move on to one, or more, of the post-festival dance-parties being held around the country.

Maybe there'll come a time later in this century when a person's sexuality becomes as irrelevant as their star-sign. But in spite of the imminent repeal of Section 28 and the lowering of the gay age of consent, unfortunately, while politically enforced and socially endorsed inequality still exits (and there remains bigots out there wanting to blow us to bits) it's important that we stand-up, party-on and be counted. See you at next year's Mardi Gras.

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