Observer column 2 September 2022
Cllr Paul Barnett has been on holiday so this week's column has been written by Cllr Maya Evans, deputy leader of Hastings Borough Council.
Pride and Solidarity
On Sunday thousands of people poured onto Hastings pier for the biggest ever Pride on a pier. With an incredible line up of acts, the event managed to both showcase local homegrown talents such as the fem bands the 'Ravens' and 'HotWax', as well as nationally renowned cabaret, which climaxed in cult classic Jo O'Meara of 'S club 7' 90s pop band fame. What was overwhelmingly obvious throughout the day was the message and mood that it's perfectly fine to be who you want to be, and that many people have struggled and fought for that right and continue to do so. I was reminded of this during the performance of 'Rainbow Bangra' a young Sikh Punjabi who stood on stage in full traditional Indian clothing to nervously stutter that he was "queer", the crowd cheered as he erupted into a dance mix of Ed Sheeran and Bangra beats.
In an atmosphere of acceptance and celebration, it is almost possible to forget or even be unaware of the struggle which continues for all people oppressed and discriminated against, from the LGBTQ+ community, to people of colour, and low paid workers. Hastings Pride was themed around the current cost of living crisis, reminding me of the incredible solidarity which took place between lesbians and gays and the striking miners of the 1980s. An era which saw lesbians and gays regularly beaten up on the street, they extended solidarity to striking miners who were having their livelihoods destroyed and their communities dismantled. A watershed historical moment saw strong women leaders come out of conservative rural communities, with lesbians and gays from the city raising funds and joining striking pickets in traditional mining communities.
This ground-breaking solidarity allowed for understanding and mutual respect of these divergent communities and allowed both to become stronger with the joining of resources. Famously, and beautifully documented in the film 'Pride', the National Union of Miners went on to pass a motion demanding the Labour Party adopt Gay rights as part of its manifesto, an incredible testimony of what can be achieved by sticking together and forming respectful relationships and bonds.
It was this spirit which I wove into my speech a few days earlier. Standing on the beach in St Leonards, a thousand residents had come out to protest the continued dumping of sewage into our sea.
I voiced the consensus on the beach: outrage at Southern Water for the continued release of sewage into the sea. I expanded my speech to talk about the exploitation of the natural environment for the pursuit of profit, linking it to the currently striking train and postal workers, also being exploited for big business profits.
There is so much to do in-regards-to economic justice for those on the lowest incomes. It will be an uphill struggle, but we should be inspired and influenced by previous successful struggles like the one for Gay rights. If there's one thing we have learnt from history and successful campaigns, it's that victory can be achieved by sticking together and extending solidarity across movements and campaign causes.
Council Leader's column