It’s Britney, b*tch!
I’d never been to Pride in Brighton before but it’s always been on my to-do list. So when it was announced at the beginning of the year that none other than Britney Spears would be headlining, my friends and I jumped on the chance. I never realised that part of Pride is actually a mini festival, set in Preston Park.
Getting to Brighton Pride & exchanging wristbands
We set off from London on the Saturday morning on the Thameslink train from Blackfriars. The trains were so so busy but it was nice and quick, only an hour from London. When we arrived, we headed to Victoria Gardens to exchange our tickets for wristbands. Eldon, Gema, Katy and I had booked an AirBnb, so we nipped off to check in and dump our bags, then came back to add another layer of glitter, wait for the last few people to arrive, and start drinking.
As soon as we were all together, we moved to the road next to Victoria Gardens which was on the parade route, and watched all the incredible floats. The vibe was amazing! So many smiles, incredible outfits, and music from the floats and various marching bands kept us dancing.
I had bought a big bright rainbow headpiece from Ciara Monahan for the occasion, and paired it with my Ems Handmade sequin bralette and leopard mini skirt. Normally I would be terrified about wearing this few clothes but something about Pride made me a bit more confident! The headpiece got so many compliments! It’s made of paper and is so striking, only problem was in the wind it did feel a bit like a sail! 😛
The parade was fantastic, with particularly wonderful floats/displays from Brighton Police, Boohoo.com, the Gay Men’s Dance Company (GMDC), and the Fire Brigade. The parade took around an hour and a half to pass us, and kept us entertained the whole time! We’d brought hip flasks of spirits with us (gin for me!), so we bought cans of soft drinks from the ice cream vans to serve as mixers, which kept costs down, however all the pubs and bars lining the route were selling drinks in plastic cups you could take away.
The parade is open to anyone and is free, as are lots of events in Brighton town centre. Preston Park is the separate, ticketed event that we headed to once the parade had finished. The party doesn’t stop however as you essentially follow the parade up the road, with everyone still dancing and hugging. The walk is about 20 minutes if you were walking with purpose… we meandered and enjoyed the street party atmosphere (the roads were all pedestrianised!). We arrived at Preston Park at about 3pm.
Preston Park – The Brighton Pride Festival
Entry to the Park was well organised, with 4 different entrances and snaked queuing to ease congestion. We arrived at “peak” time and still managed to get through the queue and security within 30 minutes.
The park/festival itself was bigger than I was expecting it to be! It had multiple stages, fairground rides, lots of street food, and brand activations. It was an absolutely boiling day and we were already sweaty so we decided to take some time and find some shade. One negative thing to mention is there weren’t very many shaded areas to shelter under; some stretch tents would have been appreciated, but we eventually found some trees to sit under.
We spent our afternoon flitting around between bars, meeting friends, grabbing food (I ate very nondescript cheesey chips from a random stall; very unlike me to not choose something interesting but it was so hot I didn’t really want to eat!) and exploring the site. The sun was intense and we wanted to save ourselves for Britney. The other pretty big negatives of the festival were the lack of water points; it took me asking 4 stewards/security before one could tell me where one was, and the queues for the toilets and bars were so long all day. I think logistically they had sold too many tickets for the location size. The park felt oversaturated with people, however everyone was in such high spirits it didn’t bother us too much apart from the queues!
About an hour before Britney Spears was due on stage we got one last drink from the bar and moved our way forward. We managed to get in front of the sound desk, slightly to the right, with a pretty good view for tall people like me. We made it in time to catch the end of Ella Eyre, who was surprisingly good. Lots of energy to get the crowd hyped up, and she has a great live voice.
During the interlude, we made friends with the people stood around us, and I must say a big shout out to Tom who was hilariously wonderful. We ended up dancing with him and his friends a lot over the next couple of hours!
It’s time for Britney, bitch!
Britney came out to huge screams from the crowd, launching into Work Bitch, with us singing/screaming every word back at her. She was performing her full “Piece of Me” show, which has been running in Vegas for over 4 years, and she’d brought all her dancers, outfit changes and staging with her. I had wondered if it would be a stripped down version for a festival-style stage but was pleased to find it was the full works!
Now of course, let’s be real here, we all know Britney Spears doesn’t sing live. The whole set was clearly a case of a DJ pressing play and the tracks playing out while she mimed. But when the whole crowd knows every word to every song (come on, it’s a Pride event, of course they did!), the vibe of everyone singing and jumping around made the night for me. Also, fair credit to Britney, the girl can move! Her range of incredible skimpy, sparkly outfits that she changed between at lightning speed was entertainment enough, then on top of that you can add in an entourage of hot dancers surrounding Britney’s high kicks and hair flips and you have a winning combination.
Britney performed a total of 21 tracks, including hits like I’m A Slave 4 U, Oops I Did It Again, Circus, Womanizer, Baby One More Time, and Toxic. We had a good view of the stage and the walkway out into the crowd. I felt like Britney interacted with her audience well; she even pulled someone out of the front row, put a collar and leash on them, and walked them like a dog for Freakshow!
She finished the set with a montage of Stronger and (You Drive Me) Crazy, into an encore of Til The World Ends. It was such high energy and there were even a few fireworks! My voice was almost gone from singing, and I’d had the best time with our gang dancing like born again teenagers.
After the pop princess had finished and the house lights had come on, it didn’t take too long to exit the park once we’d filled up our water bottles again and waited to use the loo. The walk back to town was filled with everyone still singing Britney songs along the streets which was brilliant! Half of my friends (the ones who hadn’t booked the AirBnb) had to go straight to the train station to catch a train back to London – they told us the next day about how awful it had been. Not enough trains put on they said! I was glad us 4 had decided to stay! We planned to head out to a bar or two, but almost everywhere we went had a very long queue to get in, so instead we chose to buy some drinks from a shop and do the “classic Brighton” thing of going to sit on the beach to drink them! It was actually really nice to sit by the sea and continue drinking whilst we talked about our favourite Britney songs of the evening.
At about 2.30am we walked back to the AirBnb, stopping off at the fish and chip shop for late night drunk munchies. Then in the morning, we made our way to the train station about 10am where things had luckily calmed down from the night before. We hopped on a train and were home in London by midday!
All in all we had such a great day. Britney Spears was a huge name for Brighton Pride to pull in and the crowd loved her show despite the lack of singing. The festival area itself didn’t seem large/well equipped enough for the number of people in attendance, but the atmosphere was fantastic none-the-less. The Pride parade is amazing and definitely worth going to, and there’s so much going on in the city centre you’d still have a fantastic time even if you didn’t fancy the Preston Park part.
I can’t wait to see who you get for next year!
Thank you Brighton Pride!