Read our Exclusive Behind the Scenes Pride Gossip with Patrick Cawley, AKA DJ Patch, Gaydio Presenter and Media Correspondent as he chats to the legendary Kim Woodburn, Michelle from Liberty X and Sugababes Mutya Bueno at this year’s Birmingham Pride
Words by Patrick Cawley
When you think of the iconic pride events of the UK, your mind may go straight to the likes of Brighton, Manchester, or London. I’m here to tell you, a new icon has officially arrived. Birmingham Pride 2023 showcased its fierceness May 26-28 and I have to say, I was blown away.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Patrick Cawley, Gaydio presenter and media correspondent by day, and DJ Patch by night, playing music to thousands of people a week in bars, nightclubs, and festivals all over the UK. I know what makes a great Pride, and Birmingham in 2023 completely nailed the recipe.
As you first arrive in Birmingham it really feels like the whole city has embraced an epic sense of pride, New Street station hub and grand central is heavily branded with rainbows and messages of love and acceptance, the Bullring has gone all out with pride statues, the iconic Bull monument is dressed in a message of solidarity and support to the trans community, as you walk through the Bullring Centre with its pride visuals everywhere, it smells of gorgeous perfume, and everyone from the store workers, to police and security personnel say “happy pride” and really feel as though safety and tolerance is a top priority for the LGBTQ+ Community that have descended on the city.
I had the pleasure of meeting members of Birmingham council and the Pride organisers as well as my Gaydio peers on the Friday night, firstly at the Big Community event in Smithfield which featured an array of local talent, choirs, keynote speakers, drag performers and the highly emotional candlelit vigil. The big Friday night party was the Bullring Late Night Out event which featured the hilarious Ginny Lemon, Vocal Powerhouse Nadine Coyle, fellow camp DJ superstar Jodie Harsh and more on a pop up stage right near the huge Selfridges store, whilst here I saw my lovely friend Kim Woodburn dancing and chatting to all of her fans, I’ve known Kim for many years, I told her she was bringing Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ community so much joy that night, she told me she was forever “grateful to the community for all they have done for her, and events like this are so important to spread love and support, ‘I’m 81 now Dear and there is nowhere i’d rather be than celebrating with you all’ she is such a superstar, love you, Kim.
Saturday morning kicks off with the Parade from 11am, the grandeur of it this year was truly breathtaking, people form every age group, demographic, walk of life line the streets of central Birmingham beaming with Pride, the message from organisers, ‘Our Parade is a march for equality and justice, after all there is no pride without protest, our protest is relevant until every injustice to LGBTQ+ people around the world is brought to an end and universal equality is acheieved.’
The parade showcased support from so many organisations from grassroots local charities and health services to major Banks and Supermarkets, many of whom gave out free gifts, waved collection buckets, and pledged their support.
Across the weekend Smithfield Live featured an incredible, supersized Cabaret tent showcasing the diversity of real British Drag including the likes of Lola Lasagne, Son Of a Tutu, Lady Bushra, Don One, Lady Imelda, Martha D.Arthur, and so much more. This area was constantly echoing with joy and laughter as well as a good old camp sing along, many artists also used the platform to voice messages of togetherness, the need to come together to fix injustices and political issues facing our community, and raising awareness for great local causes and charities, The Eden Stage within the year-round Birmingham Gay Village district, as well as all of the fabulous venues like Eden, The Village Inn, and Missing bar also showcased this incredible talent and message, everyone, even all of us out-of-towners were made to feel incredibly welcome, safe, and joyously embraced by Birmingham’s vibrant scene.
Main stage artists ranged from our Headliners of Sugababes, Gabrielle and B-Witched, as well as sunshine soaked performance from incredible artists, my favourites being Atomic Kitten, Danny Beard, Liberty X, Samantha Mumba, and Mae Muller. Michelle Heaton of the Liberty X girls told me backstage that she was, ‘so grateful to be performing at Pride and its a real honour, so important to us’ whilst practicing the iconic ‘Just A Little’ choreography complete with props as myself and those around me belted out, completely out of tune, “sexyyy, everything about you so sexyyy” such a joyously hillarious highlight of the weekend for me.
Boney M took us back to another era with stories of their international travel and world wide number 1 single in 1977 in between a fabulous Disco Set complete with sequins, confetti, flares and ferocity. The journey of music eras here was epic, from this 70s Dance-fest, right they way through to a stellar performance by Cat Burns who recently achieved breakout success at age 20 with her R&B break up anthem ‘Go’ in 2020. Whether you were 80, or 18 the main stage of Birmingham Pride had something amazing to enjoy. B-Witched closed the Sunday night slot just before midnight with a gorgeous ABBA megamix and then their huge 1998 number 1 hit ‘C’est La Vie’ on its 25th anniversary and as the last storms of smoke, fire and confetti blasted from the stage to rapturous applause I knew that I had been incredibly blessed to be a part of such a triumphant event, I was going to miss this immensely. As Mutya Buena of the Saturday Headline act The Sugababes told me backstage as we enjoyed a small prosecco, ‘there was magic in the air tonight, we are so lucky to be here.’
Overall, Birmingham Pride 2023 was an absolute triumph, with a perfect balance of protest and celebration, an eclectic line up of diverse talent from Drag artists to huge current pop stars, local spoken word performers, to 70s disco legends. The Pride team have taken on so much previous feedback from accessibility issues, lack of toilets, affordability and free events available to everyone, to the glitz and glamour of fantastically executed VIP area for those wanting to splurge. The team have listened, and outstandingly delivered. Birmingham’s Gay Village features so many fantastic venues, from the Cabaret bars of The Village inn and Eden to great big dance venues like The Loft Lounge and Nightingale Club, everywhere that I went felt completely safe, happy, and buzzing. The were tears, laughter, dancing, campaigning, and a tonne of Biodegradable Confetti.
Birmingham Pride will return on Bank Holiday weekend; 25th & 26th May 2024, super early bird tickets are currently on sale through the link on the events Official Instagram @Birmimghampridefestival & start from £29.50 at the time of publication.