Pride-goers in Bognor Regis were British history-makers.
The town’s initial Pride party on the Pier was the country’s first such celebration of diversity to be held on one of the structures. It was believed to be only the second in the world.
The news was greeted with cheers and applause by those present of the estimated 700 people of all ages who went along to last Saturday’s event, which was backed by Post Newspapers.
Organiser Sarah Boote-Cook told them:
“Thank you for coming along today and supporting this.
“I didn’t realise quite how important this Pride event actually was.
“Anthony Wills, of the National Piers Society, has researched this and he is sure this is the first Pride party on any pier in the UK – and only the second in the world.
“That makes it really important and really special to have this Pride.
“A thank you to John Ayers who owns the pier for allowing us to come here today and thank you to everyone for being here.”
Mr Wills, the society’s media relations officer, later said:
“As far as I can find out, the first Pride event on a pier was held in Washington DC in June. There is another one taking place in Vancouver in Canada on Sunday.
“But this one in Bognor Regis is the first in the UK. Of course, it’s good to see the pier being used for this event.
“It brings people on to the pier who might not have been here before and it could bring them upstairs to the Legends bar which they might not have seen either.
“This event is about family friendly fun and that is just what piers were built for. Everyone is having a good time and enjoying themselves and that’s what piers are all about.
“Today was meant to have been Birdman day but, I’m not sure with this weather (strong winds and an afternoon shower) if that would have taken place, and so it’s good that this part of the weekend has been kept to bring an activity to the pier.”
The party on the pier was arranged after the initial plans for a Pride weekend, to incorporate the traditional International Bognor Birdman competition, failed to meet Arun District Council’s safety rules for large-scale public events.
Organisers instead decided to stage an eight-hour party in the Legends bar on the first floor of the pier’s building and added to this with a short seafront parade.
The free entertainment included shows by drag queens Cherry Liquor, Aura Jay and Danii Dior and guests. They were followed on stage by the Elton John Red Piano Tour tribute act. Rainbow face art and hair colouring was also on offer to get everyone in the party mood.
Littlehampton resident Jess Jackson, 27, said: “This is a really good event because it is smaller than Brighton and Worthing. There is so much going on in those events.
“It is also so important to have events in towns like Bognor Regis because diversity needs to be celebrated everywhere.
“It’s not just for the bigger places like Brighton and the more we have events like this one the better.
“I would like to see another Pride Party on the Pier next year. It would be really good to keep this going.
“The more we do these events the more we will see diversity celebrated.”
Oliver Tubb, 25, of Bognor Regis, said:
“I have been in the town for about a year. It’s nice to something that is different and independent.
“A lot of hard work has gone into this for the community and it’s good to have a lot of businesses working together to make it happen. It’s a really positive event and I would like to see it happen next year.”
Fellow Bognor Regis resident Muriel Coulter, 73, said: “It is good to have this event and I’m here to support a friend.
“Why shouldn’t this take place if it makes people happy? They should be able to express themselves – and, if it makes them happy, I’m happy.”
Town mayor Cllr Phil Woodall went along in a rainbow waistcoast with his consort, Cllr Steve Hearn.
He said: “This is a good idea and, hopefully, it will become a regular event. I would like to see it come back next year on the seafront as it was planned this year.
“The number of people here shows there is a demand for it.”