Early on a Saturday morning, with the biggest migraine known to man, I wander through the streets of Leeds to the Leeds Pride HQ to sit down with Chief Executive, Tom Doyle.
I thank him for the glass of water to sooth the pneumatic drill currently jutting around inside my head, and get down to business.
So tell me a little bit about Leeds Pride.
Leeds Pride is in its 8th year after taking over from a smaller picnic styled event called ‘Hyde Out’. When Yorkshire MESMAC started working on Leeds Pride, we really wanted to show Leeds off as a LGBT friendly city and to have an annual event that was really in your face.
We started out by contacting LGBT businesses and activists, and Leeds Pride was born. In the first year we had about 100 people stood on the steps of Leeds town hall, not entirety sure what to do. 8 years down the line and we have 30,000 people expected on the day.
A lot of Pride events rely heavily on donation and support from their local community. How have the LGBT venues and Leeds City Council helped to support you?
The LGBT venues in Leeds have been exceptional and raise the majority of the money to fund Pride. Without them Pride would simply not happen.
Leeds City Council has helped amazingly with Pride, especially with the event management and promotion. This year they have given us a grant and have dedicated themselves to supporting us financially for the next 2 years.
Non LGBT businesses also show an incredible amount of support such as ASDA, whose main offices are in Leeds. And this year we are proud to have the new Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre supporting us with their ‘Wizard of Oz’ décor in the shopping centre and have helped fund and design an amazing main stage *Sworn to secrecy*
How do you think Leeds Pride is different from other more commercial Pride events?
The directors of Leeds Pride are dedicated to keeping it a free event, but it is a balancing act. It costs around £70,000 to fund Pride and the money needs to come from somewhere which is why support from the Leeds community is so important
Even with the commercial side of Pride you are never going to lose the political aspect. If you have 2 lesbians in the street partying, holding hands, then that is political, and Pride needs to maintain that wider political stance. This is one of the reasons we have 2 stages at Leeds Pride. We have the stage at Millennium Square which is away form the gay scene, and a second stage in the heart of the village.
Over the last 8 years, what is the best thing to come out of Leeds Pride?
The increasing support from Leeds City Council has been astounding. I still remember the first year that they flew the rainbow flag from Town Hall. It sounds like a small thing, but at the time it was amazing.
On a personal level, it is the emails and telephone calls from younger LGBT people who talk about attending their first pride, and it being the first time they have felt comfortable holding hands with their partner in public.
I remember once, a 72 year old man wrote a letter. He was married and loved his wife very much, but was gay. He said he saw all of the LGBT people at Leeds pride, and even though he couldn’t join in, it was one of the best things he had ever seen.
These small steps really matter, and Pride is a movement and the little steps help.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor is headlining this year and has created a big buzz. What else can we expect this year?
Everything! We have 9 hours of solid entertainment, and what I love about Leeds Pride is that we don’t hide up and coming talent on smaller stages, we give them the chance to shine on a main stage. We have all kinds of music, from rock, pop, camp, and classic.
We have representatives from the 3 main political parties of Leeds along with the Lord Mayor.
Plus all the venues have their doors open to create an amazing atmosphere.
Leeds Pride seems to be getting bigger and bigger, will it ever become a ‘Big Weekend’ style event?
The long term plan is to have Pride over a full weekend alongside a week long set of LGBT events. We are already adding bolt-ons, this year with the Everyman Cinema in Trinity Shopping Centre showing a week of films.
We have an ‘Android’ way of running Pride; we listen to what people want and allow people to have their say and help improve things. Having a closed off ‘Apple’ approach just doesn’t work.
Sum up Leeds Pride in 4 words
Friendly, Fun, Community-based, and Varied.
Leeds Pride is on Sunday 4th August, starting at Millennium Square at 11:30 for the parade, and winding its way to Lower Briggate for 2:30
Main stages are at both areas with headliner Sophie Ellis-Bextor performing on both!
More information at www.leedspride.com