No one was more surprised than me that it took me until 2023 to go to Northern Pride when Exhibition park is only 4 miles away from my house but last Saturday was the very first time and, despite the horrific torrential rain all day, was such a fun day.
Northern pride began in 2007 and it encompasses a deep sense of identity, community, and resilience, specifically in an area like the North East of England where it is predominantly working class people sometimes working class attitudes. But northerners take pride in their ability to adapt to challenging conditions. And challenging conditions is definitely something we endured this year.
Northern Pride celebrates inclusivity and acceptance by bringing together distinctive arts, music, food and local businesses to fuel that sense of belonging. This shared pride in northern roots unites people with a common thread of respect for their past while embracing the challenges and opportunities of the future.
We were largely there to support Emma, being her first Pride since coming out last year, but to be honest, we also there as allies for the entire LGTBQIA+ community. And they welcomed us with open arms. What made it even more special is that we were given the opportunity to march in the parade through town with Carrie’s work, which kicked off the day brilliantly. The colours and the atmosphere cut through the miserable dark clouds as we danced and sang and hugged people as we waved our flags through the city centre. I had worried before the march that we may encounter some anti protesters along the way, but if there were any, we didn’t see them, and if they had been there, there was more of us than there were if them anyway.
Up at exhibition park there was a full village of organisations promoting their inclusive career opportunities plus plenty of food and drink stalls. This area is all free entry (other than you need to queue to get it due to the bag searches) then there’s a festival village (£11 entry) with more food, fairground rides, a stage and a dance tent. Obviously the torrential rain wasn’t ideal, I can imagine it would have been a much different experience had it been bright and sunny but what it did mean was that we didn’t have to queue very long for things like food and the toilets – plus there were still more than enough people there to still create a great atmosphere. The only big thing weather did stop play on when we were there was the dodgems – which was disappointing me for and Sophie, as the dampness kept on tripping the electrics. We had to console ourselves with a Cinnabon.
Sadly the weather gods weren’t on our side for the whole weekend as the festival on the Sunday ended up being cancelled due to the whole park being waterlogged and becoming unsafe. It meant that anyone looking forward to seeing Sunday headliner Lisa Scott-Lee would have been disappointed, but, safety first!
Whilst looking online for some official pictures taken on the day to see if we appeared in any of them, I was quite frankly disgusted at some of the comments I saw, from people saying Pride was just for attention seekers or an excuse to behave badly in public (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what I’m prepared to repeat). People who I can guarantee weren’t actually there and were commenting from the comfort of their mother’s back bedrooms. That alone proved to me why Pride and the LGBTQIA+ charities that underpin it are still so important. There’s still a lot of work to be done to educate people to stop being so afraid of something that doesn’t affect them in the slightest.
HOWEVER, bigotry aside, whilst it might have not been the ideal weather for my first Northern Pride, I can still, hand on heart say I still had a brilliant time, and it definitely won’t be my last – if nothing else but to have a proper go on the dodgems with Soph!