In the calendar of Pride parades in Europe, Lille is often overlooked – but the city did itself proud. The floats pumped out high-octane dance music, revellers sported outrageous costumes and the crowds looked on in enjoyment.
Pride is a cause for celebration wherever it is held – and Lille is no exception, it proved.
The event started around midday at Place de la République, less than 100 metres from our home. In fact, the floats were parked up our street, and we could see frantic preparations taking place.
“It took me back to my first Pride parade, in London in 1986. In those days, it was a ramshackle affair”
When we got there, though, our hearts sank.
A few stalls had been set up and the wind was whipping across the square. Those who has turned up looked like they wished they had brought an extra layer of clothing.
It got better when the sun came out and a drag queen – who the crowd clearly knew and loved – got up on stage. Dressed as an extra from the Sound of Music, she lip-synced her way through her repertoire, while pulling up her dress to reveal… well, I’ll spare you the detail.
It took me back to my very first Pride parade, in London in 1986. In those days, it was a more ramshackle affair than the multimillion pound operation it has become.
I’m in the middle of helping to organise my workplace’s attendance this year. We’re taking part with a number of similar organisations – thankfully, on occasions like this, we choose to work together, rather than compete with each other.
We’ll have an open-top double-decker bus and hundreds of walkers behind. I won’t be there but I know my colleagues will have terrific fun.
In Lille, after the drag queen finished, Damon and I wandered off to have some lunch and a wander round an antiques market – what could be gayer than that? We rejoined the festivities as the floats passed through the Grand’ Place.
By this time, the numbers of revellers had swelled enormously. The floats edged their way along and the dancers on them gave their all.
The crowds loved it.
It was a reminder, that you don’t have to throw entire corporate marketing budgets at an event like Pride. It’s an opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people simply to be open about who they are.
I took Damon’s hand as we made our way home, leaving the party to carry on into the small hours.