The recent spate of unseasonable weather seemed to be holding and Saturday showed itself ablaze in sunshine. For this year’s Mardi Gras I had decided to wear a pair of disintegrating jeans, a’ la AHA. Haven’t you heard? 82’s chic. And besides, less is more. For breakfast I downed a bottle of supermarket Cava and a multi-vitamin pill. After all, you can’t march on an empty stomach.
I arrived at Hyde Park corner just as the 29th Pride March and Parade kicked off. Behind the various floats marched members of numerous community groups and organisations from around the county, such as GLADD (Gay & Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists), Sex Workers Pride, GMFA (Gay Men Fighting AIDS) and Stonewall.
I bumped into Stonewall’s executive director Angela Mason: “It’s fantastic and it hasn’t rained yet,” she said. Bang on cue it began to bucket down and, somewhat symbolically, people flocked underneath the rainbow flag for shelter.
But we weren’t about to let the rain piss on our parade and amidst a cacophony of klaxons, foghorns and whistles the procession made its merry way through central London passing sporadic pockets of spectators en route. Along the way I somehow became entangled with the Mr Gay UK finalists. I made a mental note: ‘I must, I must improve my bust’.
Ducking out near Victoria I caught the tube to Finsbury Park. On arrival I checked into the media HQ and headed for the VIP tent for freebie beer. Spotting Graham Norton I asked him what message he’d like to send out from Mardi Gras: “Have a nice Mardi Gras,” he said - obviously saving his sharp acerbic asides for the main stage.
I decided to head out into the thick of the fun and meet up with friends who had sent a text message saying that they were next to a giant giraffe. Whatever they were on, I wanted some.
Having met up we made off and milled around. Promoted as ‘Something for Everyone’ this year’s festival lived up to its press release. Three stages provided a cross section of live music and there were seven dance tents to hurl yourself around in. The Heaven/Paradise Factory teamed tent was especially chocker.
The Radio 1 stage also drew a large crowd with Judge Jules and Frankie Knuckles largeing it live. The kids don’t know they’re born. In my day we had to make do with DLT and Smiley Miley.
The G-A-Y main stage catered for those with more sugary tastes with pop dolls such as 5IVE, A1, Hear’Say and Steps going through the synchronised motions. The queens were screaming.
However, the biggest cheer went up for London Mayor Ken Livingstone who, true to his word last year, formally announced that the London Partnership Register would be up and running by September. Stonewall’s Angela Mason appeared shortly after, declaring the scheme “the start of the fight for equal partnership rights”.
In the meantime up to 400 couples acknowledged their commitment by taking part in a mass blessing ceremony. In all, it’s estimated that 70,000 or so turned up to party at what organisers are describing as “the most successful festival so far”.
A festival favourite was the Dreamscape bubble – a technicoloured inflatable wonderland complete with ambient surround sound. It was the ultimate chill-out experience and the perfect place to be away with the fairies. Every home should have one.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur as towards the end I found myself fading along with the sun. By now, much like my jeans, my mind was full of holes. Hedonism and human rights are a heady mix.