It really is satisfying to think how far we have come as a society that the Pride festival is mainstream and becoming an event that can potentially rival Cork Jazz Festival in turning the city into a huge carnival.
The jazz festival, which began in 1978, has long been an institution of the city, but Cork Pride has become so woven into the main fabric of our music and arts calendar that it is now a family affair. That’s quite a progression in the acceptance of gay rights, and this year marked 50 years since the Stonewall riots in New York, which raged from June 28, 1969, to July 3, 1969, and were sparked by a police raid on a gay nightclub.
The riots prompted the gay liberation movement. But homosexuality was only decriminalised in Ireland in 1993, and it would be another 22 years, in 2015, for gay marriage to be legalised here. Ireland now leads the way in celebrating LGBT rights and many countries look at us with envy.
Even 15 years ago, Cork Pride was a much smaller affair, but now the Parade is probably more elaborate than the St Patrick’s Day equivalent and every big company in Cork is now involved.
Some will argue that the corporate influence can be cynical, but people celebrating Pride is a good thing, and we are lucky to be living in a democratic country, where we can do that openly and proudly.
Even the players of Cork City FC soccer club wore a Pride jersey as an expression of solidarity and showed how tuned in they are to their community. This despite the fact that we can barely name more than a few openly gay male footballers, but Cork City FC made a great effort here and it was wonderful to see.
Cork Pride showed that Cork is a city of the people and our streets should be be packed every weekend with big parties and events. The closing party, on the Grand Parade, was incredible and the crowd stretched from the stage by Deep South bar, past the gates of Bishop Lucey Park and right up to Soho bar.
I was DJing there and couldn’t see anything but masses of people of all ages dressed up in beautiful colours; it was a sight that will remain with me forever. We have beautiful, wide streets, like the Grand Parade and Patrick’s Street, and we really should be hosting more parties there.
There was a big furore over the changes to traffic on Patrick’s Street last summer (no cars are allowed at certain times to encourage shoppers), but people love our city, and they will come in to socialise if given a push. They will spend their money there, too; Cork city is unique and we should be utilising our river, bridges, parks, and streets for such parties. We have the artistic talent and the influx of different cultures — which was very notable in the diversity of nationalities at Pride — also greatly adds to the vibrancy.
Our wet climate means outdoor events are at the mercy of the weather, but the prospect of rain didn’t stop the thousands of people on Sunday and it also didn’t prevent the recent SeaFest from being a massive success. Cork is becoming more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists and many people can walk from their homes into the city centre in minutes.
That’s not true of every city. The powers-that-be have been a lot more open-minded in recent years, and it’s great to see them backing the street art on walls outside Paul Street, Bishop Lucey Park, and by TK Maxx. Cork has a history of amazing artists, such as Mr Everybody and Conor Harrington, and we should be encouraging them to paint murals and prettify our city.
Our music and creative artists continue to do great things, often outside of the public eye, and often while struggling to make a living. Our creative spaces are restricted, and it’s a struggle mirrored in many other cities, but artists continue to find a way.
Our music venue situation has improved somewhat, but the elephant in the room is the events centre, which has been delayed by years and with another setback announced last week. But in Cork we will find a way, and while we wait, we will continue to host events, like the music concerts at the Marquee and Independent Park. Cork Pride showed that we can do a party as well as anyone.