Birmingham Pride parade led by powerful protest group of ‘fat, trans and disabled people’

MOBILISE will lead Birmingham Pride parade. (Emma R Jones)

Twenty-five queer artists will be leading the 25th Birmingham Pride parade as part of a protest performance representing marginalised voices from fat, trans, disabled and people-of-colour communities.

The protest performance is put on by MOBILISE, a project founded in 2021 by Adam Carver’s (aka Fatt Butcher) Fatt Projects which aims to create radical, accessible, queer sober dance parties. MOBILISE has already hosted a number of dance parties which have proven hugely popular with Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ community.

Included in the stellar line-up are Drag Race UK‘s Ginny Lemon who got involved after facing discrimination on her last project due to her disability. She is joined by Mama Mamba, Jaii Andrew, Bonnie Wheelass and Just Soriah, Eric Scutaro and Crip Ladywood, among many others.

PinkNews spoke with Fatt Butcher about how MOBILISE started and what to expect from the groundbreaking performance protest set to lead the way for future Prides.

PinkNews: How and why was MOBILISE created?

Adam Carver: The journey for MOBILISE has been really, really interesting and quite unique. Fatt Projects did consultation work in 2020 and around 90-95 per cent of people who we surveyed said having a safe space to dance was really important to them. Only half of the people we spoke to felt like that already existed.  

When we started to dig we found that LGBTQ+ venues tend to not be physically accessible and many queer spaces are built in alcohol and nightlife environments. As a community we are statistically more likely to have complicated relationships with alcohol or substance misuse. 

MOBILISE dance party. (Emma R Jones)

MOBILISE dance party. (Emma R Jones)

For people whose bodies don’t fit the “normal” definition of what it should be – such as fat people, disabled people and trans people – a lot of them said that they felt more aware of body differences when dancing. We asked ourselves, can we try to create a new kind of club culture that meets the needs of the people who aren’t being served elsewhere? A space to move our bodies, empower ourselves, take agency of our own bodies for joy, and create some political or social action.

And how has it grown since then?

The project has been funded this year by the Birmingham 2022 festival, the cultural strand of the Commonwealth Games programme. We’ve been able to really build the infrastructure to support a space like this. We’ve all kind of come together and set out our aims and intentions for this space and run multiple parties throughout this year. What’s been really amazing about it, is watching it grow from 50 people to a couple of hundred people. 

I feel incredibly honoured that so many people from our community have invested so much of their time and their feeling into this space. It’s a real space of love and celebration. From the start we’ve tried to make everyone feel comfortable enough on the dance floor without needing to drink for courage. We then asked how do we use these parties as a way to empower people to feel like they could get up now in front of 100,000 people and lead the city’s Pride Parade? This march is a protest, saying that our joy is a political thing. 

What challenges have you faced in preparing to lead the parade?

Clockwise from top left: Fatt Butcher, Ginny Lemon, Mama Mamba, Jaii Andrew, Bonnie Wheelass (in the middle), Just Soriah

Clockwise from top left: Fatt Butcher, Ginny Lemon, Mama Mamba, Jaii Andrew, Bonnie Wheelass (in the middle), Just Soriah. (Emma R Jones)

Historically, Prides have been dominated by a particular kind of representation but actually being in a parade isn’t always an accessible thing. It requires you to be able to march through the city. So we’ve had to try and work out ways to make it accessible. I’m really honoured to be a pioneer in bringing this together and supporting people through it – but it’s been a collective effort. I’m really excited to get out in front of people and say: “This is our community as well. We all deserve to be celebrated and have pride throughout the year.”

How are you honouring the 25th anniversary of Birmingham Pride and having such incredible people on board? 

The best thing that we can do is to showcase what our communities in Birmingham do best and to put the voices and experiences of our communities front and centre of the parade. This year is 25 years of Birmingham pride and protest and we acknowledge the history of pride as a protest for social change. We’re trying to bring it back to that in a way that also acknowledges that joy is its own form of resistance. We tried to strike a balance between honouring its history, and also setting our intentions for what we want the future for our communities to be. We are also marching for those who can’t. There are still people who are, for whatever reason, not able to be there with us. 

Almost 30 artists have worked on this project over the course of the year, plus a whole team of volunteers, community members and other production staff. We went about inviting lots of different artists to contribute at various points to the project and collectively worked on a manifesto to be held accountable too. That’s partly why so many people have come on board. It’s a broad lineup of some really incredible artists and I’m so proud and excited to be able to share this moment with them.

Ginny Lemon at a MOBILISE party. (Emma R Jones)

Ginny Lemon at a MOBILISE party. (Emma R Jones)

What do you hope people watching MOBILISE in the Birmingham Pride parade will take away from it?

I hope that people are able to take a sense of joy in each moment of this and to take some of that for themselves. I hope people feel empowered to be able to celebrate all parts of our community and themselves as well. So much of this is about visual representation as well. It’s about saying “there are people who look like me at the front of this parade as well.” 

I hope that we can provide a blueprint to other cities to build a project to bring communities together in a new way that feels more inclusive. I want people to feel that, even if it’s just for the 10 minutes that they happen to see us walking by, they feel that their whole experience is valid.