Writer Zenisha Peterkin / Photographer TQ Archive
I stopped drinking in excess earlier this year, partly due to the feeling of regret and the crushing headache I would wake up to in the morning, but mostly because I still have the most amazing experiences without alcohol. That isn’t to say that I’ve stopped drinking completely – I can enjoy a double gin and cranberry – but I have to make sure I’m surrounded by people I trust.
I think trust is the reason why the idea of a Sober Pride appealed to me when I first saw it advertised.
In its second year, Polls (they/them) and “a group of independent creators” called Fruit Punch, helped to create Sober Pride to welcome: “Other communities and queer folk who can’t relate to mainstream LGBTQIA+ scene.”
Traditionally, the idea of Queer celebration is one of finally embracing ourselves as we are and releasing the persona we adopt around people we don’t feel comfortable with. For some, alcohol and drugs enable that escape. But for others – like me – it can cause anxiety, giving us another kind of pressure to fit in.
For 25 years of Birmingham Pride, Sober Pride successfully fused the link between community and celebration, inviting Birmingham-based Queer creatives to showcase their work and perform their art over the course of two days. I danced to Q Sermon on decks, as she mixed drum and bass.
I saw Miss Sundi embrace their inner diva. I even made a mould of my fingers at Yazmin Fay’s workshop (yes, it is now a centrepiece in my bedroom).
The main event space was the garden of the Warehouse Café, with a makeshift stage, using sustainable materials, surrounded by growing plants, flowers and vegetables – a subtle nod to our ever-changing characters. The non-alcoholic bar took up a space to the side of the stage, with wooden chairs and benches laid out in front.
Inside the venue, whilst people tucked into vegan meals, Owain from Temporary Cruising Zone was selling zines and magazines made by Queer creatives and speaking to people about the lack of inclusive sex parties in Birmingham. We spoke about the misconceptions people have about Queer play parties and the way that Queer people tend to make others feel more comfortable in a space.
I was working at the event, so I missed some performances, but everyone looked like they were having a good time and a lot of people returned for the second day. The best part of the event for me is simply meeting so many people in the Queer community in Birmingham. I have lived here for two years, because of my university studies, but I have not experienced such a welcoming atmosphere anywhere else.
Initially, I had planned to just attend the event, but a week before, Polls sent out a message calling for LGBTQIA+ people of colour to work at the event. I encouraged my friend to apply with me, and on the day, she worked as a bartender, serving mocktails and different non-alcoholic drinks, whilst I welcomed people and checked tickets.
Unfortunately, in the first five minutes of opening the event, a man started to antagonise the staff, trying to take photos of people without their permission and using people’s incorrect pronouns. After the founders asserted that he was not welcome in the space, he left, and the rest of the event was so peaceful and incident-free, everyone forgot about it.
As irritating as the incident was, I would say that it really is moments like those that remind you why Pride is still being highlighted. Pride is still a protest as well as a celebration – the idea is bittersweet, but it helps us to remember to cherish the safe spaces where we feel loved and accepted as we are.