Jack Cullen

Royal what? Last weekend was Student Pride 2011

So we sent Jack along to Brighton in his ridiculously tiny shorts and deafening flip flops.

Outside it’s a gorgeous hot day on Brighton beach as we assemble in the dark and refrigerated basement of Oceana for the official opening of student pride 2011.

Someone puts a press pass around my neck, gives me a glass of cava and announces the missing attendees as if I’d arranged to do lunch with them. I am about to shed a tear when a passing local journalist loudly tuts “you know David Cameron was here last year?” rolling his eyes. Yeah, no shit, it was immediately before a national election last year.

Local MP Caroline Lucas arrives surrounded by a mini foliage of Green friends and advisors. She raps off a mini speech congratulating anyone who has been ‘challenging’ the coalition. She also takes a moment to remind us just how much the Green Party loves gay marriage. Those who aren’t clutching cava like a lifeline at this point applaud and cheer her loudly after every other word. I try to tap my feet but they’re stuck to Oceana’s floor. Licking that floor would get you pissed, I shit you not.

Despite the bunkees, one incredible man is here, John Amaechi, the world’s first openly gay NBA player and an out-and-out intellectual. Radio 1’s Aled Jones joins the panel too and I am taken-in by how piercing his eyes are. Icy almost.

NUS president Aaron Porter chairs the debate, wearing exactly the same outfit as Aled Jones – chequered shirt, dark jeans, loafers. For student pride you could at least put some eye shadow on? If I was on that panel I’d be in baby blue suspenders. I had no idea Aaron Porter was gay so immediately whip my phone out to consult Google, but alas, we’re in the cold, dark basement of Oceana.

LUNCH BREAK: (liquid lunch)
We’re supposed to watch an LGBT film and look around some Ernst & Young stalls but instead I am led astray by a cute guy from the University of East Anglia. We walk out into the sunshine discussing Pedro Almodovar and Vinnie Jones. His pal joins us with three litres of 99p cider. Now this is what I call student pride.

Gaydar Radio’s Scott Roberts invites me for cheese burgers and a catch-up. Because he’s vox popped so many people he can tell me the names of everyone I fancy, where they are studying and whether they are single. Lesson for today: Never underestimate Gaydar Radio.

GAMES: (drinking, mainly)
At 7.30 all the students meet at the pier to embark on a barmy gay bar crawl. Needless to say, most attendees are already wasted. I get chatting to a hot boy from Leicester who tells me that as he has a boyfriend we can “only cheat from the waste up”. Two bars later we’ve amended the rule to “knees up”.

LESSON FIVE: MUSIC – by Doll & The Kicks and Joe McElderry
Talk about vodka on the rocks, the club Coalition is set right on Brighton’s beach front. Doll & The Kicks give a great set with lead singer Hannah Hanlon knowing how to captivate a crowd, thrashing around onstage like some scorpion princess. To my horror though Joe McElderry looked podgy, spotty and completely down-trodden. The poor kid managed to puff his way through some karaoke choons off X Factor and give us his famous grin before retiring. I don’t know what I saw, but it wasn’t a pop star. Luckily an unfathomably cute student DJ called Charley Jarret managed to win the crowd back with some electro house in the side room, aided by the lesconic scenester Claire Cole.

AFTER SCHOOL CLUB: : After-party at Revenge
At 3.15 the party shifts to Revenge where it stayed until everyone had either pulled or worked up an appetite for breakfast. Annoyingly the layout of Revenge centres around a stairwell, forcing clubbers into a bottle neck that opens out onto what seems to be an S-shaped dance floor. Like, totes impractical.

I spot NUS president Aaron Porter standing on a podium. We stand for a few seconds looking at each other over one hundred bopping heads all chanting Ooh NA na Na Na. Surreal.

A student from Bath kindly takes me back to his youth hostel dorm which is full of snoring mature students. In the morning an LGBT officer wakes me up angrily and tells me the coach is leaving in ten minutes. I politely explain that I’m not in her LGBT club, nor am I a student, and that my mate’s car is parked about three streets away.

Student Pride was an action-packed weekend full of politics and partying. It was wonderful to see so many happy, confident and intelligent young gay people enjoying themselves in full force. Finally, well done to all the organisers, you made a seamless job of a no doubt complex and quite tricky event. Bravo student gays!

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