By Katie Heyes
Although this year’s Pride events have been rather different during lockdown, the situation proved to be no barrier when throwing one of the most heart-warming and magical virtual nights of the year so far. Amnesty International UK partnered with UK Black Pride, Gendered Intelligence and LGBTQ+ disability group ParaPride, with support from Stonewall, to bring audiences parties, performances, and workshops from an exciting list of LGBTQ+ activists, performers, and artists for Pride Inside’s Launch Party.
The Pride Inside Launch Party was kicked off with some encouraging words from the delightful host Vick Hope. Her infectious smile and friendly attitude immediately set the tone for how charming and wholesome the rest of the night was going to be. Pride Month, in and of itself, is a time that gives LGBTQ+ people a platform to both celebrate and embrace who they truly are; this empowering element was showcased throughout the many performances of the evening.
The night opened with an upbeat performance from the critically acclaimed West End musical ‘Everybody’s talking about Jamie’. A powerhouse of musical theatre, Layton Williams embodied the vibrant energy of the show in his rendition of the song ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’. Singing and dancing in the role of Jamie, the audience were transported to the Apollo theatre as Williams brought passion and confidence throughout the performance. With the very song itself conveying empowering messages such as embracing who you are and being passionate for what you want in life, themes of fun and excitement were a fitting way to open an event that promotes self-love.
Next up was British comedian Rosie Jones, who performed a stand-up performance which was not only hilarious, but also pulled at the heart strings with such great authenticity. Jones herself brought forth some of the hardships she faced as a disabled woman in the LGBTQ+ community. After struggling to come out for years, she is now as bold as ever with her sexuality and surely placed a smile on viewers’ faces with her stand-up act.
After two acts overflowing with liveliness, Marika Hackman’s acoustic set gave the audience time to wind down. Her songs ‘Wonder Lust’ and ‘You Come Now’ both carried an almost hypnotic element with a soothing voice accompanied by an enchanting melody. Closing the first half was a stripped back rendition of Elliot Smith’s ‘Between the Bars’. With a slower beat, this song suited her abilities, perfectly carrying a similar soothing quality from the previous songs, but with an added ethereal element. This was heightened by my own home location, with birds singing outside my window, thus adding a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the performance.
A talk was then given by two leading figures from the organisations UK Black Pride and ParaPride, who outlined how “existence is a resistance in and of itself”, with blackness and/or queerness being a “beautiful” quality that should be “celebrated”. The empowering statement “we all want you to win, survive and be happy” conveyed solidarity and reassurance and it was heart-warming to see such motivational figureheads promoting well-being and happiness during Pride Inside.
What truly made the event stand out were the performances by the following three singers – L Devine, Arlo Parks and Rufus Wainwright – each a bundle of raw talent. The “loud and proud” L Devine immersed herself in song, with confidence radiating off every single note. Whilst Arlo Park’s more simplistic rendition of ‘Black Dog’ depicted a devastating portrait of depression. Yet, what ultimately brought me to tears was Rufus Wainwright’s guitar-driven ballad ‘Peaceful Afternoon’, written for his husband about long-term commitment. It was a truly touching finale to such a sublime showcase of artistic talent.
The Pride Inside Launch Party showcased the importance of solidarity and listening to voices that have been silenced for so long. Pride Inside was specifically devised to showcase the incredible work amongst the LGBTQI+ community, and the night was thrilling, funny, calming, educational, and emotional. Overall, it was a wonderful way to kick-start LGBT Pride week.
Image by Ben Tavener via Wikimedia Commons