Over 20,000 people took to the city centre’s streets to spectate and partake in the 8th annual Leeds Pride event, Yorkshires biggest celebration of LGBT life and a reminder of the basic freedoms that many people take for granted.
It’s a manageable number of people as the busiest Pride event I’ve ever been to was in
Sao Paulo, Brazil where 2 million took part. Leeds doesn’t feel too crowded, there’s room to move, and it’s safe.for everyone .
The key message of the day seemed to be aimed at Russia’s anti gay laws and their government’s recent stance on homosexuality..
The parade set off from Millennium square where the fun started on stage with a host of entertainment including various speakers, cabaret acts and pop divas.
I was impressed that large national companies took part in the parade including Tesco; Asda; Nandos ,Enterprise rent a car, the Gay Police Association, Ambulance service; Morgan’s estate agents, Leeds City Council, and the Yorkshire Terriers football team and a selection of trade unions were also represented.
Mr Gay UK who had just returned from Prague, finishing as runner up in the Mr Gay Europe contests, looked great parading in his red Ferrari 458 spider.
The parade made it’s way through the streets of Leeds from Millennium Square, passing Leeds city market and culminating on Lower Briggate which had been pedestrianised for the day.
The main stage spanned the width of the street and pop up bars, food outlets, fairground rides and stalls stretched all the way across Leeds bridge and onto The Calls. The atmosphere was electric. Dozens of artists including vocalists & cabaret acts kept the crowds entertained throughout.
My highlight was Olympic Gold medalist boxer Nicola Adams coming on stage and telling everyone that she’s proud to be a lesbian, from Leeds and an Olympic winner.
The weather held out pretty much most of the day until Sophie Ellis Bextor came on to complete the lineup and close the main stage but it didn’t put people off. It was her second appearance of the day as she’d also performed on stage at Millennium Square earlier. She was amazing and the crowd loved her.
Angie Brown also brought the house down with a fantastic performance and is always popular here.
Lower Briggate was a sea of rainbow flags. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as a steam locomotive went over the bridge and all the passengers leaned out of the windows looking onto Briggate and everyone waved at the train as it gave a big ‘toot toot’.
Pride is also an outlet for people who can’t go out on the scene and maybe aren’t old enough for the bars and clubs but still want to take part.
Trinity, Leeds’ fabulous new shopping centre sponsored the main stage and during the run up to Pride created a Wizard of Oz set for the public to put their faces through and photograph. Many visitors to Trinity were also treated to a flash mob from the Viaduct Showbar who with their dance numbers put a lot of effort in to promote Pride.
Everyman Cinema were showing films for Leeds Pride which helped to bring families in and so it became a family inclusive event. It was nice to see so many there, even though some people are still unsure about bringing children.
After the stage closed, all the venues in the Gay quarter were packed with revelers and I loved The Queens of Pop who performed at the Viaduct Showbar with everyone singing along to their send up of Kerry Katona and Atomic Kitten , which is my real guilty pleasure.
Overall a fabulous day for everyone, which ran like a dream thanks to the hard work of the Pride Committee and #leeds pride was trending on twitter all day long.
Walking into my office this morning it’s almost as if it never happened yesterday as all the streets have returned to normal and been completely cleaned which is a credit to the city council.