Out, proud and loud in the city of dreaming spires
When Mazz Image takes her place in Oxford’s annual Pride Parade she’ll be carefully watching the expressions on the faces of some of the younger participants.
Mazz, 53, said, “For some people it will be the first time they’ve had the opportunity to march as part of the LGBTQI+ community. The sheer joy on people’s faces when they feel able to relax and be themselves in a safe space is one of my favourite parts of the day.”
Mazz, an Australian-born photographer who worked for Sydney’s LGBTQI+ newspaper, the Star Observer, and played an active role in the city’s famous Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, first began visiting Oxford in 2002. Back then, she struggled to find any evidence of a gay scene, let alone a highly visible expression of gay pride.
She said, “I used to walk around and think, ‘where are all the gays’? My ‘gaydar’ was running absolutely flat.”
That all changed when she discovered a cluster of three gay and lesbian run pubs on Paradise Street. The drinking houses and their customers were instrumental in organising Oxford’s first Pride, a gathering of several hundred people on the banks of The Thames in May 2003.
Mazz, who had spent several years photographing LGBTQI+ Pride marches in North America and Europe, was determined to organise a similar march in Oxford. She said, “Pride is more than just a celebration: it’s an opportunity to take to the streets, to be visible and ensure that communities around the world see there are queer people in their space. If you don’t maintain that visibility in public spaces you get forgotten. It’s only through being seen and having your voice heard that laws change and people are acknowledged.”
When she was elected chair of Oxford Pride, Mazz got the chance to fulfil her dream. She organised the city’s first Pride Parade in 2008.
Fast forward 15 years and Oxford Pride – held this year on 3rd June – regularly attracts several thousand marchers. This year, Mazz will be marching with her wife, Debbie Brixey, the current chair of Oxford Pride.
Whilst times have changed since the first Oxford Pride, the event is as relevant as ever. Mazz said, “We stand together with everyone in the LGBTQI+ community. As things get better for some parts of the community, it gives us an opportunity to help and support other parts that are being targeted and attacked.”
Mazz acknowledges Oxford’s LGBTQI+ community is far more visible now than it was when she first visited the city in 2002. She said, “People didn’t hold hands... you didn’t see any queer affection on the streets. Now there are so many more people walking around holding hands and kissing – there definitely feels there are more queer young people in the city which is great because it means they feel comfortable being out here.”
Since The National Lottery began, more than 1400 LGBTQI+ projects have been supported with more than £64Million of National Lottery funding.
Main photo (top) credit: Russell Bastock
Images of Oxford Pride credit: Mazz Image @mazzimages
1st June 2023
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