Saturday 30th August 2014
Leicester has Pride
Gay Pride Leicester 2014
It’s mid-day outside Curve in Orton Square. The drumming of a marching band is echoing around the buildings, whistles are being blown and the air is filled the happy noises of people. The parade of the 2014 Leicester Gay Pride sets off towards Humberstone Gate. At the front of the procession there is a long rainbow flag, being held by twenty or so bearers. In the parade there are balloons, banners, more multi-coloured flags are being waved. Some banners proclaim the groups gathered beneath them; some people are holding placards but it’s not so much a protest, more of a carnival. A band of excited and happy people celebrating their being together.
What is so rewarding, if not joyous, about this event is that is happening and that it is happening here in Leicester. It is an event which celebrates the freedom that this country gives to people to gather together and to celebrate their lives. In a world where so many countries are ruled by tyrants and dictators, gay people are banned from showing their pride, attacked, murdered, imprisoned and denied their rights. But this is Leicester and Gay Pride has been a mark of this city for several years. It is a city that takes pride in its diversity, is happy that its peoples have freedom, that they can live in peace and parade once a year through its streets to show the world that they exist, they are proud of their community and can share that pride with the thousands of people who line the streets to applaud and join with them in their celebration.
The parade snakes its way through the warm sunshine of an August afternoon, arriving in Victoria Park for the main event of the day. Around the park there are stalls, tents offering food, drink and merchandise, a fun fair, rides for the children, and the main stage that offers music and entertainment from mid-day though to 8 pm.
The atmosphere is friendly, peaceful, happy and in party mood. It is a gathering of people of all ages. This is a family-friendly celebration. Parents are there with their kiddies, young people are their with their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. As a crowd there might well be a higher concentration of young people but its like any other crowd of local citizens. There are people from all ethnic backgrounds, the same mix of people and faces that we have seen so often in the public events of this summer.
Dotted around the park are gazebos and stalls offering information about all kinds of things: sports, health, careers, trade unions, t-shirts for sale, jewellery, flags, garlands… pretty much what you would expect to find any open-air event. On stage performers, entertainers, singers, and dancers offers a non-stop programme of free music and dancing.
The theme of this year’s event: One love, one community. LGBT Freedom.
At this year’s gay pride, stars and celebrities. Kieron Richardson, the actor bes known for playing the part of Ste Hay in the TV soap Holyoaks.
The 28 year old star supported the campaign to kick homophobia out of sport. Today he was on stage comparing the acts and posing for selfies with members of the audience. The gay TV celebrity is said to have been inspired to come out by X-factor winner Joe McElderry.
In 2012 we met Kieron’s Hollyoaks co-star PJ Brennan; not able to be here today because he is in New York although he had planned to be here.
In the dance tent, there was a non-stop programme of sounds. The packed tent was filled with mainly young people who where dancing – or what passes for dancing in the twenty-first century. Now, these teenagers know of disco only from television programmes.
Headlining the main stage was international DJ Lisa Lashes. One of Leicester’s most internationally renown music artists, Lisa told me that she will be Canada next week, spinning some disks in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
It was good to see the star musician at pride this year, here with promoter Jazz,
Singers were on the programme, some of them local artists and some who had come down from Manchester, like the three members of Wolf Vocal Band, whose performance of a number of classic songs went down well with the audience.
Tokyo Taboo, a duo of singers from Manchester were there with a set of songs that had the crowd singing and clapping along with the music.
Three pole dancers displayed their agility. Singer Ryan Joseph was back for another year. DJ Robbie Lewis was on the stage in the run up to Lisa Lashes.
Singers were also part of the crowd, including the great jazz singer Carol Leeming and Leicester’s own song-writer John Anthony (he performed at Pride in 2006), plus a few faces that you would recognise from those TV talent shows. Poets, writers, musicians and artists mingled with the throng on Victoria Park.
No pride event would be complete without its drag queens and their vivacious humour lifted the laughter as they performed on stage: Ms Marty, Miss Penny, May Mac, Tammi Twinkle and the intriguing artist known as Drag With No Name.
Pride is not all sweetness and light; take away the balloons, the flags and the party frocks and you find that the LGBT community is still struggling with its demons. A newspaper handed to me by one of the activists told of the homophobic bullying that is still rife in our schools. Other articles told about homelessness in the young LGBT community being higher than for the community generally. Leicester’s Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Trans centre In Wellington Street tackles a range of issues day in day out, providing advice, social support, counselling, a library and a cafe.
As with most cities, Leicester has its complement of pubs, clubs and bars: The Rainbow and Dove, The Dover Castle, Helsinki, Sloanes, Bossa and a smattering of businesses such as hair dressing salons and coffee houses that are gay-friendly. The pink pound plays its part in Leicester’s economy just as it does in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton and across the UK. Hotels and restaurants were keen to offer their services to those coming into the city for the day or the weekend.
Pride is a community event and so here today on the park the same NHS, Police Force, Fire Brigade, Fostering & Adoption, that were there for Caribbean Carnival or The Belgrave Mela. Who makes all this happen? A team of volunteers works throughout the year to put on this one day event and make it the outstanding success that it was.
Leicesster Pride 2015
Our page about What’s On in Leicester