The Proud of Belper
(Featured photo by Jim Bell. Click on thumbnails to enlarge.)
Belper is the most amazing place. Many months ago, when a pride event was first proposed, the idea was for a small picnic in the Memorial Gardens. But Belper is enthusiastic, and when people heard the idea they had things to add. It snowballed. Everyone wanted to be involved.
Shops decorated their windows, the council helped put up the flags donated by Derby University, crafters made decorations – including Woollen Woods who knitted bunting, schools took the opportunity to educate children on diversity and inclusivity and have them make banners, people gathered according to their skill sets and built pieces of Pride, and venues crafted their own separate shows to carry the festivities into the night.
Sarah and Helen Barley-McMullen, Mary McLean Farmer and Adrian Farmer, Kelly Nixon, Suzanne Parnell, and Sue MacFarlane formed the committee which organised Pride in Belper. Fliss Goldsmith organised the Children’s Zone in the Memorial Gardens, and Tony Stott, Jude Hibbert and Becky Knight were crucial to the success of the day.
Pride in Belper was officially opened at the Market Place by Mayor Simon Mallett, and Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa. Derbyshire Constabulary and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue were very visible and involved presences, fully supportive of the day. The Police on patrol were englittered and adorned, despite having to be in full uniform.
Nailed estimates that there were between 1000 and 1400 people on the Strutt With Pride down and up King Street, from the Market Place. We’d been ahead of the parade, photographing and filming, and as we went back up the hill to capture the groups and banners in the march, the true extent of participation was revealed. It was overwhelmingly emotional.
The Strutt With Pride march was led by drummers, followed by the Belper Golden Rainbows (older LGBT group), Derbyshire LGBT+, and several other bannered groups amongst the immense rainbow clad crowd. The Pride in Belper banner was carried at the front. The march circled around King Street, turning at the bottom, with the march going in both directions at once once the head of the march turned at the bottom of the pedestrianised town centre.
This day was full of merriment, colour, joy, drinking, laughter, music, shows, children, bubbles, and fashion freed from the constraints of restraint.
But this day was also full of deep emotion, change, recontextualisation, learning, tears, and connection. Across the spectrum of society, a great many people were moved and affected in different ways.
The crucial part of these reactions was the togetherness. The support from (almost) every kind of person in Belper for every other kind. Difference wasn’t highlighted for separation, but our variety was enjoyed.
Alton Manor Nursery spent the whole week educating under 5s about diversity and families (article to follow).
Fleet Arts teamed up with Belper School to produce the fantastic papier mache heart banners which were carried during the march, which were so popular that we were asked to follow up on what happens to them. Several people expressed that the hearts were now part of Belper’s history, and that their future should be assured, either by reuse or by auctioning them off. Several people loved them so much that they tried to steal them, and several members of the LGBTQ+ community requested to buy them.
Fliss Goldsmith arranged the biggest ever variety of free children’s entertainments at a Belper event. This included the involvement of Ann-Marie McMillan and the Derbyshire Toy Library. Sparkly Storytellers led young children on their own mini-march around the Memorial Gardens, as giant bubbles were chased, and faces were painted and glittered up. Boom Magazine (a Belper families handbook magazine) ran immensely popular giant bubbles, which flew, rainbow tinted, across the Gardens, chased by children. There was also a nature trail for families to follow.
Adults enjoyed a full line up of music on a stage in the Memorial Gardens, and No. 28 hosted spoken word performances. The atmosphere was that of the best days of fair-weathered Belper festivals. Thankfully the weather was entirely on our side, providing the perfect weather for enjoying old friends and new friends in the park. There were just the right amount and type of food stalls, including Dosa Love street food, and Posh Cow ice creams, as well as stalls selling creative wares, and highlighting local inclusivity, like Christ Church, whose new Curate Bruce Johnson, adorned with a rainbow dog collar, was telling people about their inclusive church which “does not discriminate on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race, or sexuality.” Christ Church was not the only church involved in Pride; the Derby Quakers marched side by side with the Belper Unitarians, both declaring that love is not restricted in their faiths, and all are welcome.
It wasn’t just the Memorial Gardens which were packed though. The history exhibition and information stand from Derbyshire LGBT+ (whose groups we will tell you about in another article) at No. 28 was popular, as was their cafe, whose fare was donated by Morrisons. The Market Place remained busy, especially with the popular presence of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue’s Rainbow Fire Engine.
Mayor, Simon Mallett judged the decor of shops and pubs, and decided on the following awards:
- 1st Place: Cheeky Bambini – children’s clothes in the windows, with the words “Pride in Belper” and the date above them, with a cut paper fringe
- 2nd Place: Nourish @ No44 – an artistic display including rainbow drapes, a wish tree covered in rainbow toned wish-ties, and displays of hand crafted paper flowers
- 3rd Place: Strut Menswear – modular paper designs hanging in the window, and a hand chalked design in rainbow colours, which visitors could add messages to
Simon gave special mention to Nordicana and Beer Trap.
Delight is the word that seems to define the day, for those purposefully showing Belper that all of its parts are accepted. However, there is a deeper meaning and import for those who have not been shown such acceptance and celebration before.
One of the most moving parts of Pride in Belper was hearing people’s stories, and how deeply important this day was to them. Belper changed for many on Saturday. It stopped being a place where they were invisible, having had to hide in the shadows for fear of judgement, stigma, or violence.
Of course these fears and the threat of them have not been completely erased, but as one person said, “They can see us now, and we come with an army.”
That support, acceptance and validation is such a valuable thing that it brought many people to tears.
One usually unemotional woman, hardened by experience, cried the entire route of the Strutt With Pride because this was not a known variable. This was new. She told us, “These are the streets I was beaten up on. It used to happen a lot.” She felt like she had been given back those streets, as did a former resident who had moved hundreds of miles away several decades ago, never to return until Saturday, when they felt that they could “finally come home.”
Other people told us how, even though they had been to lots of Pride events, they had never seen anything like this before, that even bigger Pride events weren’t this beautiful and didn’t feel like this. The whole of a community, with all its parts involved, working together, to make everyone feel included, respected, accepted, and celebrated, is far from usual.
At the other end of the spectrum, the people with more social power, who comfortably and enthusiastically gave this support and acceptance, expressed that this was the best day that they had ever had in Belper. This is the feeling that was expressed the most. This was the BEST day ever. A shared feeling that something really special was happening.
Ultimately that feeling is about connection, and in that connection unravelling the prejudices and stigmas that have blighted society, at least unravelling them in our small haven of peculiarly large life. All the different threads of this absurdly busy and wonderfully creative town willingly wove together to create a tapestry that shows that Belper wants to be a whole, and here for each other. We’ve known this for a while in the general sense, but the focus of LGBTQ+ identities and lives cannot and should not be hidden by the desire to move on towards the aim of inclusive equality without noting what that aim seeks to smother.
Yes, Pride in Belper was about everyone, but a part of that, which we have to state, is that the acceptance was not always there, and that there are still those who would deliberately stand in the way of it – those who parked on King Street impeding the march, the few men who acted as though the march was invisible and angrily barrelled through, the person who unliked Nailed in response to our last article on Pride in Belper, and the troll who attacked Facebook posts asserting that Belper was gay now, and should be boycotted. These are not examples of more plentiful behaviours, this small number of reactions constitute the entirety of opposition that Nailed is aware of. Few in number, but their actions are the visible part of bigotries which still exist.
Over 5% of the town marched. Straight and trans, pan and drag, bi and cis, lesbian and gay, adult, teen, child, curious, fluid, certain and undefinable, asexual, allied, and united beyond such labels.
About a quarter of the town’s population were out celebrating, and they brought guests. This was HUGE!
Unofficial estimates by the police suggested over 5000 in attendance, but this was at 3pm, and the festivities continued for another 10 hours, with Pride closing at 1am. We encountered many people who hadn’t known this was happening, and joined late, or came for specific parts of it. So we can only say that there were many thousands. The last events to close were the post-cabaret disco at Nourish, and the post Abba tribute festivities at the The Green House.
There was music at Arkwrights, the Kings Head, and The Railway. As mentioned The Green House had an Abba tribute band and the place was roaringly busy well into the night, No. 28 saw Dan Webber’s Genre Fluid previewing before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe, and Nourish @No44 hosted Gorge, a cabaret including drag acts. The Ritz cinema held a showing of Pride, the 2014 film about LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and Welsh miners supporting each other through the hardships of the Thatcher government in 1984. Dai Donovan, one of the real miners, portrayed in the film by Paddy Considine, returned to Belper for the first time since supporting local striking miners in the 80s. He answered questions from Belper folk and charmed everyone in his presence with his gentle and powerful humanity. Nailed interviewed Dai, and this will feature in a separate article. We couldn’t get to all of the events, as many were happening at the same time.
Belper was very alive on Saturday, fired by a passion for each other which has long been a fuel for local endeavour, but never expressed quite like this before.
Many of those who have previously felt marginalised, felt grateful, which was written in chalk on the wall outside Strut Menswear, and expressed repeatedly to Nailed.
There were several places where people could leave messages – post-it messages on the Derbyshire LGBT+ stand, chalk on the wall outside Strut Menswear, and the art activities from Fleet Arts. In all of these places we also found messages seeking to highlight awareness of autism and neuro-divergence.
For many the town felt changed. Their lives felt changed. Many more felt emotionally overwhelmed by the level of opposing discrimination and celebrating diversity. This was certainly true for the Pride in Belper organisers and for Nailed, viewing the whole event, its impact, and hearing people’s stories and emotional reactions.
It’s on the whole town to make these feelings become a truth which flows through our daily behaviours, to be inclusive, and normalise the consideration and joy of our diversity as a community.
One thing is certain, history was made on Saturday – Belper’s first Pride, a Pride which is inclusive of all people and all their uniquenesses, and difficulties, a collective statement of unity, and a standard which will be hard to beat, but important to maintain.
Belper is Proud!
Can You Find Yourself?
Your Photographers @ Pride in Belper
Photographs are copyrighted, but can be purchased from the individual photographers. Over 1200 photos were taken and a much larger gallery will be published at the end of the week. Please note who the photographer of the photograph you wish to purchase is and contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
NB: Nailed coverage has included work from a spectrum of identities over the hours of the day, the time of preparation, and the coverage yet to come. This is, however, not specially done for Pride in Belper, and is the norm for Nailed.
5 thoughts on “The Proud of Belper”
Never went to the Pride festival, as I was away. Just read the article, amazing si proud and grateful that I live in Belper, a wonderful exceptionally excepting town
What a wonderful read. It brought back the emmence feeling of proudness that I experienced on Saturday. The postive energy was palpable, especially during the march. One of my best days in belper. Love the photos, beautiful smiley people and such colour.
Great article thank you Clare! We loved the day, it proved that the spirit and love of 1967 lives!
Brilliant write up Clare. Pride Belper was incredible. Belper made memories on Saturday .
Huge congratulations to the Pride Organisers, and the whole community for coming together to show our unity. Belper is a very special place to live, work, and visit. Long may this community sprit, kindness and respect continue.
A wonderful article Claire – local journalism at it’s best – very well informed, comprehensive, eloquent and full of heart.
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