All that glitters breaks the mould.
It feels slightly unjust that the write-up of this year’s event is written by a white, forty year old (ish) bloke who is most definitely of the heteronormative persuasion but I’ll do my best to do it justice.
The brain-child of the Highland LGBT Forum; Proud Ness is now in its’ second year and has proven to be a popular draw. Last year a reported 5000 people turned up to march through Inverness and this year has the estimate at nearly double that. The good natured event was cheered on as they marched through town on Sunday before assembling at Bught Park to continue the festivities. There was a brief pause for speeches and these gave food for thought as we listened to the challenges still faced by those who are trying to express who they really are to friends and family who are less tolerant than they should be. Joy Ogunyemi’s story of the challenges faced growing up in the face of family and community hostility as she embraced who she really was is humbling and yet heartwarming too. The confident young person giving a speech in front of a few hundred people is testament to that strength of character.
From my own perspective and reflecting what I grew up with, it’s reassuring to see that, despite continual attacks from the media and some politicians, most folk are accepting and willing to embrace anyone who dares to stray from the accepted (imposed?) societal norms. I don’t pretend for one second to have experienced anywhere near the crap some of these people dealt with, but having put up with abuse for being different – long hair, piercings and a look that flitted between goth and grunge I have an inkling what they’ve gone through. On the flip side it’s disappointing that over 25 years later we still have to band together and ally ourselves against the xenophobic, the bigoted and the intolerant. There’s a way to go yet.
On to the business of the music, we had the pleasure of curating the stage at Pride this year and we brought the music that we felt really summed up the feel and positivity of the day.
First act of the day were Highland Voices the choir consisted of a wide range of ages from 11 up and their specially made t-shirts for the day with rainbow sequins were a particularly nice touch. Highland Voices brought together ‘Freedom! ’90’ and ‘We are Family’, the latter being particularly on theme for the event. It was a contagious and highly driven performance that matched particularly the mood of the day.
Whilst Ant Collesso‘s return to Inverness appeared to cause a trip down memory lane for compere Venus Guy Trap, his performance of a collection of well known tunes showcased his vocal talents and his charisma. Hopefully more performances in the area will follow.
The Roov are a shimmering, soul pop band that are an instant hit with the crowd. There’s a hint of The 1975 in there but if you close your eyes you can hear Duran Duran and New Order slipping through along with hints of Depeche Mode creeping in. An eighties vibe, but one that’s dragged through to the present day by the scruff of is neck and given a (gentle) kicking. If you’re at Belladrum this year then pop over to the Seedlings Stage to catch them there.
Table for Four are a gnarlier prospect and power through a set of tunes that showcase Sarah Williamson’s sense of humour along with her insight of being part of the Pride Community. ‘Loser’ is an anthem to those of us who have ever felt marginalised or ostracised because of who we are. I wish I’d had that song to listen to when I was at school! The band have a bundle of energy and there’s enough snarl on the guitars to keep a metalhead like me very happy indeed.
This was all ably compered by Inverness’ own Drag Queen, the exuberant Venus Guytrap who kept the momentum going between bands with cover versions and enough banter with the crowd to keep them in the tent. Her own voice was pretty impressive and she made a damned good go of getting those high notes in ‘I Believe In a Thing Called Love’ by The Darkness.
Issue number Two of Proud Ness by all accounts was a roaring success and the wider Highland Community have embraced the spirit of it and have, I hope, helped ensure that it will go on to be bigger and better. Who knows, perhaps one day we won’t need one at all but, personally speaking, celebrating diversity is something we should never let go of.