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Pride and Progress: Platforming the First Post-Pandemic Parade

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

The original version of this piece stated that "Art History and English student, drag performer, and self-described queer creative Vil" "[grew] up in New York City". We would like to amend the above.

Last Saturday, April 1, Saints LGBT+ hosted St Andrews’ first pride parade since the pandemic. The event marked the end of Pride Week, a week celebrating the LGBT+ community in St Andrews and Fife. Beginning at the Student Union, over 400 attendees made their way down Market Street carrying a variety of pride flags. The crowd ended the march with a dance party at the Spanish Gardens. Many people were festively dressed for the occasion and flags were handed out.

At the end of the parade, The Saint spoke to key organisers of the event at the Spanish Gardens to find out what it takes to run St Andrews Pride 2023. Social Officer for Saints LGBT, Becca Hain, spoke to The Saint about the process of organising the event. Becca said, “We began organising in May of last year. At first, it was a lot of paperwork but then came the fun part of getting the stalls, choosing the music, and getting the people. It’s tedious but completely worth it because people really showed up for this event.

“Initially we were really hoping for at least 250 people, so having over 400 people show up has just been incredible, all of these people are here for pride, whether they are a member of the LGBT community or an ally, they’re here for us. They’re here to show support. I honestly tear up a bit, to see that support in St Andrews especially given the current political climate.”

On the topic of pride outside of St Andrews, Becca said, “Growing up in Texas, I did not grow up with any sort of visibility. This is actually the first pride parade I have ever attended, and I’m so glad to have been a part of organising this. This was not something I had access to growing up and being able to show people that you’re not alone and that you have this community is really special for me.”

Becca said the most stressful part about organising the event was obtaining permits, “It was definitely a process getting all the permits because we had to get permission from Fife Council and notify the police to block off the streets, but once we got through all of the bureaucracy stuff, it was really the people who made this happen. The only hard part was really just reserving the area for the people to show up, and once we did, they came in droves. It was really lovely to see.”

Two other organisers that The Saint spoke to are also members of The Gay Saint, a student-run publication focused on centring LGBT+ voices. Creative director Jack Sloop and Editor-in-Chief Jack Travers told The Saint about their experience of the event in addition to a little history about their own publication.

Jack Sloop said that the best part about the pride march is the intimacy of the event. Jack said, “It’s not like you’re in a big city, or really surrounded by strangers. Everyone really knows each other here, which is nice because the march just has more of a community feel to it.” Jack described the publication stating, “[The Gay Saint] allows creatives to publish their work on a blank canvas. We actually came across several copies of The Gay Saint back in 2018."

“There were some old copies of the publication back when it started in the 90s and ran for about four years, it was filled with things you wouldn’t normally read in the regular [The] Saint, it was full of sex positions, horoscopes, dating advice and coming across all these things in the archives, we just knew we had to revive it.”

Jack Sloop made the first “resurrected” draft of The Gay Saint. “I designed it, we made it entirely free and seeing it come to print this year was really a wonderful experience”, Sloop added. Also manning The Gay Saint stall was its Editor-in-Chief, Jack Travers. According to Jack, the best part of being editor is the people.

Jack told The Saint, “I mean, you see this whole community here, and it’s really lovely to combine everyone’s work of poetry, art, and opinion pieces. And our launch events are also lots of fun.”

Jack added, “It’s honestly been an insane couple of weeks. We had Glitterball, Queerfest, Transfest, Drag Walk, and now Pride. It feels as though we’ve really painted the town rainbow. It’s such a powerful statement especially with offer holder day coming up and prospective students being able to see that there is a community here for them.”

Each person that was interviewed by The Saint was asked whether they had attended pride marches outside St Andrews and if so, how the two experiences compare.

The unanimous response was that St Andrews’ pride march was far more intimate than those that Pride and Progress: Platforming the First Post-Pandemic Parade (Cont.) occur in several major cities such as New York, Manchester, London, and Brighton where attendants can number up to the tens of thousands. Art History and English student, drag performer, and self-described queer creative Vil expressed the contrast succinctly.

Vil told The Saint, “The difference between St Andrews’ pride and ones that happen in large cities is the vibe. When you have pride in major cities, it’s a lot more corporate. “Here, it’s more intimate because we really are just doing it for each other. In St Andrews, our pride events are by us and for us. There are no major brands or big businesses involved because we don’t need other people to organise a march for us — we can do it ourselves”.

Vil added, “Having grown up in a city myself, I’ve certainly noticed the steady rise of the ‘corporate vibe’ that is increasingly present in the annual pride marches held in June. Starting in the 2010s a lot of businesses began publicly allying themselves with the LGBT+ community. What began as simple PR campaigns have evolved to become more transparent in their attempt to generate profit, with many labels launching pride branded merchandise”.

“This vibe is entirely absent from St Andrews’ pride week. Everything from the parade, to drag walk, and glitterball is almost entirely student-led: stripping away any note of capitalism. It can be said that pride week in St Andrews is, and remains, a grassroots movement; retaining what is perhaps the most beautiful and unique nature of the events. It is the beautiful and purely authentic expression of a community’s pride in simply being themselves."

Illustration: Clodagh Earl

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