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Friday, June 14, 2024

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Pride Month Series: Mark and Jason from Sweatbox

To celebrate pride month, throughout June we will be asking “What does Pride mean to you?” We’ve spoken to people from across our vibrant scene and community.
Today we spoke to Mark and Jason from Sweatbox.
Here’s what they had to say:

GLL: What does Pride mean to you?

M: Remember I’m quite old which allows me to be both sentimental and grumpy. For me Pride is a chance to reflect upon the generation we lost but with the uplifting feeling that as long as we continue to appreciate and celebrate the progress we have made, then they didn’t die in vain. I find the old platitude “Pride should be a riot” a little limiting. It negates the idea that as long as it’s to acknowledge the progress we’ve made, then celebration can also be a political act. Of course, there is more work to be done and things are still awful elsewhere. But the day we stop celebrating is the day we stop appreciating all the work and sacrifices made by earlier generations to get us where we are today. Also, it means unicorns and sparkles.   I like sparkles.

J: Don’t make it sound like you were at Stonewall… Pride always reminds me of the importance of living our truth. Of the bravery required to get up each morning and live our lives with pride. I think each and every queer person that moves through this world without hiding who they, changes the world a little every day. I think that’s heroic. It’s also the only time of the year that I don’t wear black.

GLL: Tell us about your first Pride experience, what & where was it?

M: Most of my memories have turned to powder. All the rainbows and unicorns and arse-out chaps tend to blend into one. The only memory that haunts me was very early on when I shyly attempted to join my first march only to be elbowed in the eye by a rather over-entitled straight guy giving out copies of The Socialist Worker. I know he was straight because he kept telling everyone. Frequently. I didn’t like him very much.

J: My first Pride was in New York City with my first boyfriend. I don’t remember much beyond the feeling it left us, surrounded by our tribe and just so much love. I just remember everyone smiling. All-day and well into the night. It was just pure joy. And for a city that is known for its surly manner, that’s no small feat.

GLL: What is your favourite part of Pride?

M: Nowadays it’s during the evening and all through the night at Sweatbox. We’re absolutely heaving and it’s chaotic. But our staff work so incredibly hard and help create such a good atmosphere throughout – watching them exhausted but happy and Proud is very special. Sometimes I’m almost tempted to do a bit of mopping or launder some towels myself. But I don’t. I don’t think it’s fair to muscle in on all the fun.  Besides some of my sparkles might rub off.

J: Pride is always the most fun night in the Sweatbox calendar! I’ve been to Prides all over the world now and I think the thing that unites them all is they’re all chaotic messes of joy, laughter and love. And as something of a chaotic mess myself, I love seeing cities turn into a rainbow playground for my tribe.

M: and I love the mellow Sundays after the hectic Saturdays.   Brighton does that particularly well. Everything feels a bit warm, fuzzy and post-coital.

GLL: Do you have a favourite Pride memory?

M: Way back in the nineties I got to make a documentary about Pride for Channel Four. It was called Pride Divide and was (of course) debating whether Pride had ‘sold out’. As a point of historical interest for your younger readers, the concept of Pride being a sell-out is not a new one. I’m pretty sure we were saying ‘of course it’s not what it used to be’ by the second day of the Stonewall Riots. But anyway, Graham Norton was hosting the documentary but also hosting the main stage at Finsbury Park. And he introduced a very frail, very sick Holly Johnson onto the stage. He looked like he only had a few weeks left to live and yet he gave us a rendition of The Power of Love which makes me cry even now when I think about it. By the next year the good meds had kicked in and Holly looked like his old self again. I have never believed in god but since that day I have believed in The Power of Love.

J: I’ve seen Kylie twice at Pride, but to be honest my favourite memory will always be the tears of joy on the face of one of our Hungarian staff member coming back to work from marching in his first London Pride parade. He was crying because it was the first Pride he had attended where no-one threw rocks at him and he was so happy. It’s so easy to take the freedoms we have here in the UK for granted, so it was important being reminded that just three hours away, those rights are not a given.

GLL: Why do you think Pride is still important?

M: One of the great things about Pride is it can mean different things to different people.  And in the few moments that we’re not bickering over it, it can a beautiful thing – bringing a whole bunch of disparate, displaced outsiders together – into a place of safety and support.  For me, it’s about who I love, who I fuck and how I fuck. Because these are the things that define me as a gay man and I refuse to apologise for them.  And recently, I’ve started to worry that our hard-won rights to freedom of sexual expression are once again under attack but this time from a new form of somewhat self-induced form of puritanism. Also, Tesco has not had a good year so far. They desperately need our alcohol sales in their Dean Street branch.

 J: I’m not even sure we keep asking this question year after year. Our brothers and sisters are still being persecuted and murdered around the world. We are not living in a post-gay world. Homophobia is still a very real and credible threat to us all. Everywhere. So, until we are all equal, truly equal, and accepted rather than just tolerated, we need to fly that rainbow flag and remind the world that we’re here, we’re queer and you’re just gonna have to get used to it. We need to do it for all of those who still can’t and for those we’ve lost along the way.

M: I have this vision of us, living out our end of days in a Northern Romanian village.   Our abs will have relaxed into flab but we don’t care because we spend every day in our matching rainbow mumus.   And every morning before we sit down to the first of our four daily brunches.

J: With mimosas – part of our five a day.

M: and we open the shutters and step out onto the balcony like Eva Peron in a rainbow mumu and announce “EVERY DAY IS PRIDE DAY” to the startled little villager on the bicycle below.

J: Hoverbike you mean – this is the future, remember.

M: Of course, hoverbike. With a little rainbow flag fluttering on the back. Because this is OUR future and every day IS Pride Day.

SweatBox Soho is due to open on June 21st. Keep up to date on everything Sweatbox

Here >>>> www.sweatboxsoho.com

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