I really wanted to enjoy Pride Cymru’s big weekend. I mean, it’s the entire reason I dragged my wife and kid down on the hell ride that was the Transport For Wales train service. That and the Lego store.
And the parade was excellent, and we had a mostly good weekend but the Big Weekend itself was not as family-friendly as Pride Cymru would’ve liked. I never intended to go in the evening and see any of the acts (though, Texas was tempting), I mostly just wanted my kid to have a fun day out.
I’d like to preface this with the fact that Pride does not have to be family-friendly. That’s not the point of pride. Families should go to pride, but they don’t have to be family-friendly..
However Pride Cymru really sold this family area which was a good idea, but like a lot of the Big Weekend, poorly executed. I’m never sure where to begin with these sorts of things, but as usual, it’s best to just go through it chronologically.
The Queues Were Insane
After the parade, we walked down to the venue to get into the Big Weekend and see what was there. We found the place…well we found the queue. Divided into two there was a short line for those buying tickets on the gate, and a long line for those already with tickets. We were told it would take an hour to get in.
An hour, in the hot August sun, with a three-year-old. After having just stood in the sun for over an hour watching the amazing parade. There was no mention of other entrances, nothing to indicate where disabled people might enter, and only one member of staff dealing with all the people in the queue.
You cannot ask a young family to stand in line for an hour. Not in the midday heat.
So, we decided that perhaps it was due to the fact the parade had just finished and we decided to get some lunch and come back.
Chaos at the Queues
So we decided to come back after lunch and a nose in the Oxfam bookshop – partly because it cost £13 quid each to go into the castle. The queue was even longer now; it was down into the subway. No one was really sure which queue they were supposed to be in and we decided to just head back to the hotel and cut out losses.
Which is about the same time that people started running.
I managed to ask someone what was going on and was told there was ane entrance with an empty queue around the corner. We figured we’d give it a go and managed to get into a queue and only waited ten minutes or so.
I was appreciative that there were so many security guards on-site, and also a few coppers (well, the venue is right next to a police station) and they were all very nice and pleasant to deal with. I am a little concerned about their effectiveness though.
There were bag searches, I don’t mind bag searches, I used to have the regular at one of my old jobs so I’m not bothered. Plus, most cis-men see a sanitary towel and generally don’t like to look any further.
The bag search was not overly thorough. My wife opened her us and listed the contents, I opened mine up and pulled a few things out voluntarily (nappies and toddler leggings). Neither bags were ‘searched’. Illegal drugs are not allowed onto the site, and while I did not have anything illegal, let me tell you that I had a whole pharmacy of prescription and over the counter medication in my bag. That went unnoticed. And granted, few people are going to buy my hayfever medication or my inhaler, I did have a couple of stronger things in there.
Maybe I don’t look like a drug dealer or a troublemaker, and they decided I (a white, averagely dressed, afab presenting mum) was not an issue but that smacks of profiling.
Not Enough Ticket Staff
For the two queues, mine the and the one next to me, there were five or six security guards, and one person checking the tickets. I actually walked past him because I didn’t see him. No wonder the queues to get into were so long. It seems if you’re expecting people in their thousands to attend, you might have a few more people checking presold tickets.
Way Too Loud
This is the bit we could handle. And I don’t just mean it was too loud near the stages. The volume and bass pretty much covered the entire area. You could feel it. It gave my wife palpitations and I didn’t want to take my kid anywhere further in than the Glee tent because it was so loud.
Now we’re a little more sensitive to noise than most people. We lead a generally quiet life, no loud music, tv always low, no noisy toys. I get that this was supposed to be a big event, with concerts and music. I just didn’t expect it to be that loud already at three in the afternoon. Kids would need ear defenders. There was nothing to say kids would need ear defenders.
The Family Area
There were no signs inside, so my wife and Snappy sat in the shade as far away from the bass as possible and I went to get them an ice cream each and look around and try and figure out what and where everything was.
I was underwhelmed.
I found the family area and was presented with two problems. It was virtually empty, despite it only being 3pm and in the direct sun. I saw three stalls or stands. The scouts, and a couple of other things. Not sure where everything else was, as no times were posted anywhere online for certain events like Drag Storytime or the Dog show.
The other issue was that it was even closer to the loudest stage and I couldn’t hear myself think. I don’t really relish the thought of my three year old being subjected to that noise level for any reasons really and given that my wife was already having a panic attack it wasn’t going to happen.
I am slightly concerned for the welfare of animals that were there. Animals who are usually more sensitive to sound than us.
Also, if earlier in the day, the music was quieter or the bass less, why was the family area open until 6pm? If we had stuck in straight after the parade as we attempted, it would’ve still taken an hour and I still don’t know we would’ve missed anything while in that queue.
Alcohol, Food and Wasting Water
All containers coming into the big weekend had to be emptied out, a shocking waste of water. Though luckily they let us keep Snappy’s juice which I appreciated. However, it did feel a bit pointless to empty out all the water if you can just buy alcohol on site. I can’t quite see what the rationale is for it, especially seeing as it was a hot bank holiday. The water refill stations wasted quite a bit of water too.
The alcohol was already on sale by time we got there at three. I assume it had been on sale all day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel it’s particularly safe for small children to be surrounded by people who have been drinking all day.
I’m also concerned that there didn’t seem to be a lot of food options. I saw ice cream and donuts but nothing else. There may have been more up by one of the stages but it was so loud and my head was already thumping. I have heard it was very expensive, which seems a bit dangerous to put people off eating if they’re drinking all day.
Once you’re in, you’re in.
Once you’re in you can’t leave and then come back later. Given the staffing levels, this isn’t very surprising and not all that unusual but it isn’t great if you have kids. Especially little ones. Sometimes they need breaks, need food, need nappies and a change in clothes. Having the ability to come and go would’ve been much more helpful. And it doesn’t sound particularly helpful for the disabled. I have anxiety and would definitly need breaks from the crowds and access to medication if I’ve forgotten it (or used it all).
Recommendations and Suggestions.
I think for future events I definitely have some thoughts if Pride Cymru want more families to come to their big weekend event. Some are a bit fanciful, but others are definitly realistic.
- The venue cannot be that loud. Not for kids. Either keep the noise down still after the family area closes or move the family venue further away from the stages (and not right next to the family area).
- An actual timeline of events – somewhere.
- Signs. I had no idea where the family area even was or what stage was what.
- More organisation at the entrance so people with kids aren’t queuing for an hour or more.
- Alcohol on sale after the family area closes.
- Activities that last longer or are repeated throughout the day.
- The ability to come and go. At least with good reason.
- More people checking tickets.
That would make me want to come back, though I’m not convinced it will happen. I’m glad I was given free tickets because it would’ve cost £35 for us all to get in, sit down, have an ice cream and leave.
The parade was amazing and I would and will do that again in a heartbeat but the Big Weekend part probably not.