In the UK, we don’t so much have a Pride Month, as a Pride Season: mostly taking up the summer, but Prides and their ilk do seem to crop up throughout the year, sometimes helpfully described as ‘Winter Pride’ to distinguish those from others happening in supposedly sunnier parts of the calendar. Then again, we can do cold and wet at pretty much any point you set for an event, particularly when said event takes place over a Bank Holiday weekend.
The two Prides I’ve attended so far this year took place three weeks apart, and couldn’t have been more different. Leeds Pride takes place on the first Sunday in August, this time amid beautiful sunshine (enough to make me apply sunscreen everywhere that wasn’t covered before I’d even left Leeds Station), and is known for being one of the biggest Prides that’s still free to attend.
I got to the start of the parade route just as the party was getting going, which gave me plenty of time to take in the sights, photograph some of the floats and other vehicles that were lining up, and even catch a couple of acts on the stage. I also managed to snag the perfect photography spot alongside the parade route from which I managed to get a record of every group taking part (I had well over 200 photographs to sort at the end of the day, including those taken before and after the parade itself).
I was struck by just how diverse a crowd we were: not only in terms of the mix of people, but more especially in the variety of groups taking part. The police officers patrolling the beginning of the parade and the pre-parade party had glitter rainbow face-paint and/or rainbow coloured numbers on their shoulders. One group of construction workers had a rainbow JCB, and there were big turnouts from a number of major employers: supermarkets, banks, the NHS, etc. with matching corporate Pride T-shirts.
Although I was wielding a camera, I managed to amass a fair horde of swag from the corporate groups in the parade, and I also found few participants were particularly keen to pose for me as they passed. Having seen the last of the parade, it was time to make our way to the post-parade party (via a chain-coffee-shop to snag a refill for my water bottle) and try to catch up with friends who’d been in the parade. Alas, the latter was not to be in my case.
The party area was packed, especially around the main stage, and while I managed to watch a few dancers on smaller (sometimes improvised) stages, and visit all the stalls in the community area (including the folk from the Yorkshire offices of the British Library), the friends I’d spotted going past had already moved on to somewhere quieter. Having eaten some snacks and watched others enjoying the funfair, I decided to do likewise.
After the hurly burly of Leeds, I decided to give Manchester’s main parade day a miss this year, and bought a ticket for just the Sunday. Manchester Pride takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August, and I was already booked for the Monday, so my options were slightly limited. I may have picked the wrong day…
It was wet, to say the least. Even my big (non-rainbow, sadly) umbrella couldn’t completely protect me from the deluge. Having met up with the folks from Bold Strokes Books, and perused the rest of the marketplace, I retreated to the Expo, which was properly undercover, where I alternated between browsing the community stalls (including the Real Ale drinkers, who gave me a sample of Peterloo Porter) and ‘helping’ on the Bi Community News/Biphoria stall.
Eventually the friend I’d arranged to meet after she’d finished her morning commitments tracked me down and we managed to grab a buffet lunch in the LGBT Foundation centre, before she went off to do a stewarding shift and I headed home to dry off.
I’m hoping to attend both events again next year, and hoping for Leeds-style weather at both, although the lack of crowds due to Manchester’s downpour was quite welcome to me, at least, in some ways.